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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Integrated Crop/Livestock Systems Research: Practical research considerations

item Tanaka, Donald
item Karn, James
item Scholljegerdes, Eric

Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/11/2007
Publication Date: 3/1/2008
Citation: Tanaka, D.L., Karn, J.F., Scholljegerdes, E.J. 2008. Integrated Crop/Livestock Systems Research: Practical research considerations. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 23(1):80-86.

Interpretive Summary: Many producers are currently using complementary production systems such as integrated crop/livestock systems, to reduce production costs and minimize purchased inputs. Pertinent research on integrated crop/livestock systems is almost nonexistent. There are many reasons for this deficit in research. Integrated crop/livestock research is complex, because of all the interactions that occur, and can only be accomplished through a multidisciplinary team research program. A number of practical considerations must be discussed during the development of an integrated crop/livestock research program. Some of the considerations are: scientists need to communicate and function as a true team; agreement on project responsibilities and manuscript preparation at the on-set; discussion of inevitable compromises in experimental design, treatments, replications, animal numbers and land resources; scientists may need to conduct research outside their area of expertise; statistical analysis may require new or unusual approaches; consideration of crops and crop sequences critical to sustainability; cropping systems should be based on producer requirements and complement animal needs. Inherently, integrated crop/livestock research is complex and addresses several interacting problems, which require a multidisciplinary team approach, a high level of communication among scientists, and greater funding resources.

Technical Abstract: There are many reasons for the paucity of integrated crop/livestock research and associated publications. Integrated/crop livestock experiments that involve adequate treatments and replications, as perceived by both crop and animal scientists, require large acreages, many animals, considerable labor to conduct the research, and substantial financial resources to fund such long-term research projects. Educational background can also be a deterrent to cooperative research, because scientists are inclined to work with peers who have similar training and experience, rather than with scientists who have training and expertise that may contribute to conflicting views over research requirements and objectives. Prevailing attitude that all experimental data must be statistically analyzed to be of any value is also a detriment to integrated research. Large integrated projects may be difficult or impossible to analyze, at least by conventional means, because treatment numbers and replications may, by necessity, be limited. Related to the prevailing need for statistical analysis is also the need for scientists to publish senior authored publications on a regular basis in order to keep their jobs, receive promotions and achieve status among their peers. Conducting integrated research may not facilitate scientists’ publishing the number and quality of publications required for them to meet these criteria. A further obstacle to integrated research alluded to above, involves the many experimental design compromises that must be made by cooperating scientists. Crop and soil scientists for example, use many treatments and replications with small plots, while animal scientists by necessity have experiments that involve relatively large numbers of hectares and animal numbers with relatively few treatments and replications. It is therefore extremely difficult to initiate such projects given these inherent differences in crop vs. livestock research, as well as to design effective experiments that will provide publishable data. Making compromises on the many factors relevant to integrated crop/livestock research while designing experiments that will provide useful data that can be statistically analyzed and published is therefore extremely difficult.

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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