Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/24/2006
Publication Date: 3/1/2007
Citation: Russelle, M.P., Entz, M.H., Franzluebbers, A.J. 2007. Reconsidering integrated crop-livestock systems in North America. Agronomy Journal. 99(2):325-334.
Technical Abstract: Although integrated crop-livestock systems have been in use globally for millennia, farmers in many industrialized countries have tended toward increased specialization. There is new interest in reintegrating crops and livestock because of concerns about degraded natural resources, profitability and stability of farm income, and long-term sustainability, but also because of increasing regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations. Integrated crop-livestock systems facilitate broader crop species utilization, including perennial and leguminous forages, which can be grown in selected areas of the landscape to achieve multiple benefits. These integrated systems inherently involve the use of manure, which benefits soil condition, fertility, and carbon sequestration. Integration of crops and livestock can occur within the farm or among farms. Both scales of integration rely on farmers' knowledge, motivation, and resources. Despite the numerous benefits that could accrue if farms moved toward on-farm or among-farm integration of crops and livestock, the inherent complexity of these systems constrains their adoption. Furthermore, farmers expect that changes they make in their operations will enhance both the profitability and environmental sustainability of their farms and communities. The combination of system complexity and the potential for public benefit justifies new national research initiatives to overcome these constraints, moving agriculture toward greater profitability and sustainability.