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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Research Project #436698

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Grass and Forage Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Project Number: 6020-21310-011-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jun 11, 2019
End Date: Feb 21, 2024

Objective 1. Management systems for improved growth, handling and storage of harvested biomass for optimized quality and utilization for improved livestock management and positive environmental benefits. Sub-objective 1A. Forage and biomass production systems that better utilize nutrients to increase productivity and/or reduce energy and nutrient input requirements. Sub-objective 1B. Biomass harvest and storage systems that enhance the value of the feedstock for livestock production. Sub-objective 1C. Efficient strategies for producing livestock on forage-based diets, targeting optimal productivity. Sub-objective 1C1. Identification and selection of animal phenotypes that are productive and thrive on low-input pasture systems to minimize management inputs. Sub-objective 1C2. Understanding grazing behavior and spatial distribution of sheep naturally infected with gastrointestinal nematodes. Objective 2: Develop integrated tools to foster improved management of pasture and forages which maintain productivity while providing economic and environmental benefits. Sub-objective 2A. Measuring and monitoring system status and function at various scales. Sub-objective 2A1. Develop tools to identify environmental factors affecting forage production to maximize productivity and environmental/ecosystem benefits in diverse environments. Sub-objective 2A2. Utilize spatial information to develop site specific recommendations for warm season forage species, nutrient requirements and economic inputs for improved farm management. Sub-objective 2B. Provide tools that support management decisions and aid implementation. Sub-objective 2B1. Determine site specific recommendations coupling soil water availability with nutrient requirements to optimize forage production for economic sustainability. Sub-objective 2B2. Farm-scale recommendations that provides a decision support tools for producers that will allow optimization of farm management for whole farm productivity, economic viability and environmental sustainability. Sub-objective 2C. Pasture-based livestock management practices that improve resilience to climate change, conserve soil or protect water quality, optimizing production, conservation and environmental goals. Sub-objective 2D. Targeted grazing strategies to reduce invasive grasses and forbs and promote desirable perennial grasses and woody species. Sub-objective 2E. Grazing management strategies for maintenance of a diverse native plant pasture that serves livestock and wildlife including native pollinators. Sub-objective 2E1. Impact of grazing on insect pollinators and beneficial arthropod community in pasture ecosystems designed for multiple use of livestock grazing and pollinator habitat. Sub-objective 2E2. Impact of native forbs and grasses on insect pollinators and beneficial arthropods and plant- pollinator interactions in pasture ecosystems designed for multiple use of livestock grazing and pollinator habitat.

Our goal is to increase long-term sustainability of small farms by integrating management of pasture and silvopasture-based livestock systems to augment whole-farm productivity and profitability, encourage crop diversification which spreads biological and financial risk, and enhances ecosystem services. Involving both short- and long-term studies, we will determine practices that provide environmental and economic benefit to small farms. Studies will focus on improving forage and/or livestock production while enhancing soil, landscape and forage attributes at multiple scales. These studies include examining conventional and nonchemical parasite control on sheep production efficiency, grazing management on forage finished beef and lamb, and improving nutrient-use efficiency on forage pastures. Additionally spatial information will be used to understand interactions at multiple scales to develop decision support tools for increasing efficiency for soil-forage system management. We will also continue a long-term study that utilizes controlled watersheds to determine the impacts of various pasture management strategies (rotational grazing, overgrazing, haying, tree buffers) on pasture hydrology and nutrient runoff. To evaluate diversification, we will examine effects of integrating agroforestry management with crop and/or livestock production.