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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #236165

Title: Multifunctional grass farming:science and policy implications

item Gowda, Prasanna

Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/4/2009
Publication Date: 3/31/2009
Citation: Boody, G., Gowda, P., Westra, J., Welle, P., Vondracek, B., Johnson, D. 2009. Multifunctional grass farming: Science and policy implications. In:Franzluebbers, A.J., editor. Farming with Grass: Achieving Sustainable Mixed Agricultural Landscapes. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Grass-based farming can provide multiple benefits while being profitable for farmers. Benefits include water quality improvement, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. In this study, we evaluated and compared five land use scenarios for their impact on water quality and farm economics using a water quality simulation model. Various policy options for supporting grass-based farming were presented and discussed.

Technical Abstract: Grass-based farming can provide multiple ecosystem benefits, such as protecting water quality, providing wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon, while also being profitable for farmers. We compared five agricultural land-use scenarios in the Rock Creek Watershed in northern Ohio using the Agricultural Drainage and Pesticide Transport (ADAPT) model for their impacts on sediment and N losses. We also evaluated changes in total P and watershed-level economic impacts. Conversion of up to 20% of cropland to grass-based farming could reduce soil erosion by as much as 44% and N loss by up to 23% compared to a baseline of current land use. At the same time, income from markets was highest with hay and grass fed cattle, while government payments were lowest for grass farming. However, farming sustainably with grass in mixed environments will require new strategies in the face of mounting ecological and financial challenges. More research is needed on agroecological aspects of grass farming, including production of livestock and cellulosic crops, impacts of climate change on conservation, wildlife interactions and social and economic considerations. Various emerging markets offer possibilities for supporting more grass farming. Existing and new policies can be utilized at the local, state, and federal levels to support expanded grass farming in mixed landscapes.