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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #431163

Research Project: Back to the Future: Enhancing Food Security and Farm Production with Integrated Crop-Livestock Production Systems

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-21660-004-05-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Mar 1, 2016
End Date: Dec 31, 2021

Overall objectives: Objective 1. Ecosystem services from Integrated Crop Livestock (ICL) Systems. Determine environmental and sustainability benefits of ICL systems at multi-state scale utilizing existing and new field sites. Objective 2. Livestock performance in ICL Systems Evaluate the relationships between livestock and forage characteristics in ICL systems leading to design of integrated systems that optimize livestock production while considering environmental impacts. Objective 3. Adoption of ICL Systems. Characterize the social and economic environment for implementing an integrate crop-livestock (ICL) system based on robust focus group and survey research across multiple stakeholder typologies. Objective 4. Economics involved in ICL Systems. Scale-up ICL systems for improving crop production, and potential impacts on greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, water quantity and quality, and LCA using state-of-the-art models from field to larger scales. Objective 5. Education and Outreach. Share knowledge and provide outreach on environmental sustainability of integrated systems to landowners/producers, high school teachers and students, graduate students, NGOs, government representatives, and other stakeholders. The ARS investigators will be specifically involved with Objectives 1, 4, and 5.

The research will utilize existing integrated crop livestock research sites. Soil health assessment will be conducted under ICL systems. Soil samples will be collected from 0-5, 5-10, 10-15, and 15-30 cm depths at 4 times in a year that include: (i) before crop planting, (ii) crop harvest, (iii) one to two days pre-grazing (after establishment of the cover crops), and (iv) one to two days post-grazing in every year from every treatment and every plot. Soil samples will be collected to measure the basic soil properties. Plant residues remaining after growing crops (corn, soybean, and oat), and livestock grazing on mixed cover crops will add C and N to the soil. This annual addition of C and N will be determined by analyzing total C and N of shoot and root residue materials of crops, and manure samples of livestock, and then subtracting from C and N outputs from harvested crop materials (grains and shoot) from each plot. Soil microbial biomass C and N will be determined in soil samples extracted from the 0-5, and 5-10 cm depths of all plots using modified chloroform fumigation–extraction method. Soil organic matter fractionation will be performed by determining particulate organic matter and mineral associated organic matter. Assessment of water quality from ICL systems: A total of 16 lysimeters will be established in 4 treatments (cover crops, cover crops and grazing, no cover crops, and grazing grass-forage mixture) at soil depth about 70 cm in each experimental unit (plot). Soil water samples (leachates) will be collected monthly (from June through August when no grazing, and bi-weekly from September through November when grazing introduced), and after every rainfall event (n = 4 approx. if there is enough rainfall) from these lysimeters These soil water samples will be analyzed for ammonium, nitrite, and nitrate, total dissolved carbon, dissolved inorganic carbon, dissolved organic carbon, and dissolved organic nitrogen. Trace gas fluxes from ICL systems: Static chambers will be used to measure fluxes of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from soil surface to atmosphere from ICL systems at 4 locations. The enterprise economics and risk component will focus on the potential income generated from market-exchanged goods. An enterprise budgeting approach will be used to evaluate the income and production costs for integrated crop livestock systems compared to crop only or livestock only systems. The enterprise budgets will be used for risk analysis using a stochastic budgeting approach. Stochastic budgeting analysis will be conducted using stochastic simulation for variables including crop and livestock production, prices received, and costs for key inputs. Stochastic efficiency analysis will be used to rank risky alternatives, and present those results graphically. A second important component of the economic analysis is to quantify tradeoffs among economic and ecosystem services.