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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Research Project #441345

Research Project: Fostering Resilience and Ecosystem Services in Landscapes by Integrating Diverse Perennial Circular Systems

Location: Dairy Forage Research

Project Number: 5090-21500-002-013-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 31, 2026

Short-term (year 1-3): 1) Identify current dominant and appropriate diverse perennial circular systems (DPCS) in major agroecoregions, and characterize forages, crops, and livestock practices, markets, and farmer demographics, motivations, and barriers for adoption; 2) Assess resilience and quantify provisioning, regulating, and supporting ecosystem services of current and DPCS by modeling and exploring alternative future scenarios; 3) Assess the economic and social value of ecosystem services and risk management for society; identify potential market failures and missing markets that would otherwise support adoption of DPCS. Medium-term (year 3-5): 4) Identify policy measures including crop insurance, lending, and subsidies to incentivize DPCS at state and federal levels; 5) Conceive a new narrative, develop actionable tools, and communicate concepts to farmers, consumers, lenders, and policy makers about the benefits of DPCS; 6) Develop and incorporate instructional content for K-12, undergraduate, and graduate courses on design, and assessment of DPCS, resilience, ecosystem services, and economic value.

Regional teams will assemble in the four target agroecoregions (Northeast, Midwest, West, and South). 1) We will identify one current dominant system and one potentially appropriate diverse perennial circular system (DPCS) for each region. An example of the current system is corn-soybean rotation for the Midwest; examples of DPCS are diversified rotation of corn-soybean and three years of alfalfa for dairy or corn seeded over perennial legume living mulch species for beef cattle. Using EPA level 3 ecozones and NRCS SSURGO soil maps we will develop species suitability maps based on climatic and edaphic tolerances to identify areas where improved systems would have the most impact. Focus groups and representative surveys of farmers from current and DPCS systems will characterize farmer demographics, production systems, and values, and identify factors underlying adoption of DPCS in each region, including farmers from underrepresented groups (e.g., women, people of color, small-scale). 2) Three current and DPCS farms will be identified in each region, and monitored for productivity, ecosystem services, agronomic and social practices, and economic performance. These farms will provide data to validate models and serve as nodes for Extension and Education programs. One farm per region will be from an underrepresented group. Agronomists will share data from past crop, forage and livestock research in each region creating an online, centralized data hub. New experiments will be developed to fill data gaps to parameterize models. This will allow the assessment of resilience and stability of species and cropping systems. A meta-analysis of past research will inform modeling of life cycle assessment to compare ecosystem services (soil carbon and health, nutrient losses to water, pollinator habitat, greenhouse gas balance) of current and DPCS systems. “Alternative futures” methodology will be used to compare potential future performance and vulnerability of current and DPCS following various biogenic and development scenarios. 3) Farmers’ willingness to accept incentives to adopt DPCS, consumers’ willingness to pay, and societal value of the benefits will provide economic valuation of ecosystem services and risk. 4) Opportunities for policy recommendations to crop insurance, lending, and direct incentives at state and federal levels with farmer groups around the node farms co-innovating together. Communication materials will raise the profile of benefits of DPCS across audiences. 5) Extension and educational programming at state and national levels will inform farmers, consumers, policy makers, and lenders of the benefits of DPCS. An app will be developed to estimate economic and ecosystem benefits of alternatives, with farmer groups around the node farms co-innovating together. 6) Coordinated teaching resources for K-12, undergraduate, and graduate level on the practices and science of DPCS will deliver quality online content that simulates hands-on experiences and problem-solving, virtual farm tours, and will analyze farm and watershed impacts in each region.