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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL ORGANIC MATTER AND NUTRIENT CYCLING TO SUSTAIN AGRICULTURE IN THE SOUTHEASTERN USA Title: Soil physical aspects of integrated crop-livestock systems

Author
item Franzluebbers, Alan

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 6, 2007
Publication Date: August 13, 2007
Citation: Franzluebbers, A.J. 2007. Soil physical aspects of integrated crop-livestock systems. International Symposium on Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems, August 13-17, 2007, Curitiba, Brazil.

Interpretive Summary: Integrated crop-livestock systems are inherently more complex than the current model of specialized agricultural production in industrialized countries with clear separation of crops and animals. A movement towards integrating crops and livestock will have impacts on soils and the environment; the key is to understand whether those impacts will be negative or positive. A scientist at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Watkinsville Georgia reviewed available literature on the soil physical responses to various components of integrated crop-livestock systems. Both negative and positive effects of introducing animals onto cropland are possible. With high soil moisture and high stocking rate, animal trampling can compact soil and disrupt the soil surface sufficiently to cause a reduction in subsequent plant growth and contribute to increased water runoff and nutrient loss during intense rainfall events. However, well-managed, integrated crop-livestock systems should create opportunities to avoid continuous stocking of animals on perennial pasture, thereby distributing the stress of animal traffic onto a greater land area and across different times of the year. This review will assist scientists, extension specialists, and farmers to design and implement more robust agricultural systems to maintain high production, improve profit, spread investments costs across multiple operations, increase water and nutrient use efficiency, and improve environmental quality on the >300 million acres of farmland in the USA.

Technical Abstract: Integrated crop-livestock systems are inherently more complex than the current model of specialized agricultural production in industrialized countries with clear separation of crops and animals. A movement towards integrating crops and livestock will have impacts on soils and the environment; the key is to understand whether those impacts will be negative or positive. Literature is reviewed on the soil physical responses to various components of integrated crop-livestock systems. Response categories were separated into effects on (1) rooting environment (soil aggregation, bulk density, and penetration resistance), (2) water availability (soil water content and water infiltration), and (3) nutrient availability (soil organic matter and soili-profile stratification of organic matter and nutrients). Both negative and positive effects of introducing animals onto cropland are possible. With high soil moisture and high stocking rate, animal trampling can compact soil and disrupt the soil surface sufficiently to cause a reduction in subsequent plant growth and contribute to increased water runoff and nutrient loss during intense rainfall events. However, well-managed, integrated crop-livestock systems should create opportunities to avoid continuous stocking of animals on perennial pasture, thereby distributing the stress of animal traffic onto a greater land area and across different times of the year. More research is needed to understand whole-system interactions in integrated crop-livestock systems, not just direct effects of isolated components, such as (a) forage-crop rotations without animals or (b) animal treading effects in isolation of long-term cropping system evaluation.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
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