Submitted to: Agronomy Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/17/2003
Publication Date: 10/25/2003
Citation: Hanson, J.D., Karn, J.F., Tanaka, D.L., Liebig, M.A., Hendrickson, J.R., Kronberg, S.L. 2003. Integrated crop/livestock systems in the northern plains: exploiting synergistic production components to improve efficiency. Agronomy Abstracts. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Agriculture has been very successful in meeting the needs of most of the world's population. Yet, there are concerns about the sustainability of modern agriculture. Intensive agriculture impacts the resource base and potentially reduces both its capacity and its sustainability. In the Great Plains, many agricultural systems are characterized by a lack of diversity and declines in soil organic carbon. At the same time, beef production in the United States has done an excellent job of developing animals that can convert feed grains into meat acceptable for human consumption, but as a result the industry is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Modern agriculture must return to integrated management systems to optimize the outcome of production, economic, and resource conservation goals and to allow producers to use production components (crops, crop sequences, livestock, etc.) that result in the greatest production with minimum input costs. Building on the synergy of the system components, integrated agricultural systems benefit the environment by 1) reducing the use and movement of agricultural chemicals, 2) enhancing soil quality, 3) decreasing soil erosion, 4) increasing efficiency of soil water use, and 5) increasing storage capacity of the soil for soil carbon. Full integration of livestock and cropping systems may help in slowing or reversing some of the detremental environment and sustainability problems associated with modern agriculture. The complexity of today's agriculture forces producers to balance goals dealing with production, economic, social, and environmental issues. Externalities, including weather/climate, market conditions, government programs, and new technology, also impact an agricultural enterprise. By considering producer goals and the externalities influencing agriculture, management systems can be developed to optimize such issues as total production and quality, net enterprise return, pest (both insect and plant) management, soil, water, and air quality, and resource conservation. This then leads to the development of integrated agricultural systems that are economically viable, socially acceptable, and environmentally sustainable.