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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems in Semiarid Regions

Authors
item Schiere, Hans - LA VENTANA
item Baumhardt, Roland
item Van Keulen, Herman - WAGENINGEN UNIV&RES CENTR
item Whitbread, Anthony - CSIRO
item Bruinsma, Anne - LA VENTANA
item Goodchild, A - UK
item Gregorini, Pablo - UNIV NACIONAL DE LA PLATA
item Slingerland, M - WAGENINGEN UNIV&RES CENTR
item Hartwell, Birgitte - ICARDA

Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy Monograph Series
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 26, 2005
Publication Date: August 1, 2006
Citation: Schiere, H.B., Baumhardt, R.L., Van Keulen, H., Whitbread, A.M., Bruinsma, A.S., Goodchild, A.V., Gregorini, P., Slingerland, M.A., Hartwell, B. 2006. Mixed crop-livestock systems in semiarid regions. In: Peterson, G.A., Unger, P.W., Payne, W.A., editors. Dryland Agriculture. American Society of Agronomy Monograph Series No. 23. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy. p. 227-291.

Interpretive Summary: Mixed farming systems combine crop and livestock production that appear in many forms, each with benefits that differ by place and user. These benefits have resulted in ancient and modern arguments between pastoralists and crop farmers, as well as between specialized and modern conservation farming. In this chapter, we explain terminology and illustrate the variation between different mixed systems in relation with climate, input availability, culture and mindsets. A set of system classifications is based on access to land, labor and capital as a guide for establishing policy, research and teaching. Concepts of modern systems are described to better understand the driving factors behind successful mixed farming practices. We describe linear and non-linear issues governing mixed crop-livestock farming. Linear issues relate directly to food production from crops and animals on short term, nutrient balances, and use of crop residues for feed or mulch. Non-linear issues relate to trade-offs, e.g., crop choices that interact with animal production and soil organic matter. They also relate to governmental programs that reflect important regional development policies for understanding on-farm and between farm mixed systems. We conclude by illustrating choices for farmers and policy makers on encouraging mixed farming through a variety of different systems. We also show how a variety of mixed systems behave according to changing resources.

Technical Abstract: Mixed farming systems combine crop and livestock production. Many forms of mixed farming exist, each with benefits that differ by place and perceptions of stakeholders. These benefits are a focal point of ancient and modern argument between pastoralists and sedentary crop farmers, as well as between specialized and modern conservation farming. This chapter provides a framework to understand this variation. We first explain terminology and illustrate the variation between different mixed systems in relation with climate, input availability, culture and mindsets. A set of system classifications is shown, one of which is based on relative access to land, labor and capital as a guide for policy setting, research and teaching. Concepts of modern system thinking are described to better understand the driving factors behind the emergence of mixed farming, also using arguments from ecology, psychology and thermodynamics. The last two sections elaborate on what we call linear and non-linear issues in mixed crop-livestock farming. Linear issues relate to direct aspects of food production from crops and animals on short term, nutrient balances, and use of crop residues for feed or mulch. Non-linear issues relate to trade-offs, e.g., crop choices that interact with animal production and soil organic matter. They also relate to aspects of governmental programs for regional development which reflect important notions in understanding on-farm and between farm mixed systems. The concluding comments illustrate choices for farmers and policy makers on encouraging mixed farming. The paper illustrates a variety of different forms of system thinking. It also uses both inductive and deductive approaches to hypothesize on how the variety of mixed systems behave according to changing drivers. In this way the paper provides a framework to better discuss the development of mixed farming and of sustainable development in agriculture and society.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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