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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Research Project #438074

Research Project: Improving Resilience and Diversification of Small Farms Through Agroforestry and Specialty Crops

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Project Number: 6020-21500-001-002-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2020
End Date: Jun 30, 2025

The overall objective of this project is to develop agroforestry strategies that can be successfully integrated into small farm production systems to optimize the economic viability, social equity, and environmental protection of these multifunctional working landscapes. Specifically we will (1) Improve agricultural goods (e.g., perennial and annual specialty crops, livestock, forest products) and ecosystem services (e.g., pollinator habitat, carbon sequestration) considering optimal placement and suitability at field, farm, and landscape scales; (2) Develop strategies to integrate trees, shrubs and grazing livestock into existing grasslands, and orages and grazing livestock into forest stands; (3) Quantify the benefits of nutrient-dense specialty crops including berry shrubs, tree crops, and medicinal plants to diversify enterprises and improve community health; (4) Examine implications of conservation practices designed to manage the fate and transport of sediments, nutrients, antibiotics, and pathogens from agricultural inputs including synthetic fertilizer, herbicides, and grazing livestock manure; (5) Quantify market values, consumer preferences, and socioeconomic incentives of integrated whole-farm production systems; (6) Support social equity through the study of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and urban food forests; and (7) Disseminate information to farmers and ranchers, professionals, and policy makers through field days, workshops, publications, and web-based resources.

We will quantify the biophysical and socioeconomic drivers of productivity for small-farm agroforestry systems where trees or shrubs are established in combination with livestock, forages and/or other crops. That information will be used to develop strategies for optimizing the economic viability, social equity, and environmental protection of these systems. Multi-location trials in Missouri, Arkansas, and other parts of the Midwest Region will be utilized in this research. Biophysical investigations will encompass: measuring productivity; investigating physiological and molecular attributes to enhance growth; screening of germplasm; studying metabolomics for human health; breeding for enhanced growth in a changing climate; developing value-added and new products; assessing quality of food, fiber, and biomass; and assessing soil health, water quality, pollinator habitat and/or other ecosystem services. Socio-economic investigations will include assessments of landowner attitudes towards agroforestry, landowner adoption, and market opportunities. Landscape-scale investigations will include: multifunctionality assessment, optimization of placement of specific practices, suitability analysis to match tree/shrub specialty crops with local conditions, and future climate predictions.