Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/17/2007
Publication Date: 3/1/2008
Citation: Russelle, M.P., Franzluebbers, A.J. 2008. Introduction to “Symposium: Integrated Crop–Livestock Systems for Profit and Sustainability”. Agronomy Journal. 99: 323-324. 2007.
Technical Abstract: Agriculture in the USA and other industrialized countries has become increasingly specialized in response to political, regulatory, and economic pressures to meet market demands of an ever-larger food and fiber-processing sector. However, there is a growing concern with specialized agricultural systems, because of increasingly negative responses from the environment that are manifested in (i) water contamination with excessive nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens; (ii) decreasing groundwater levels due to high demand and competition from a variety of stakeholders, including specialized crop production; (iii) rising greenhouse gas concentrations from soils depleted in organic matter; and (iv) dysfunctional soils that have become degraded from excessive tillage, salt accumulation, and pesticide inputs. Alternative agricultural systems that integrate crops and livestock could provide opportunities to capture ecological interactions to make agricultural ecosystems more efficient at cycling nutrients, relying more on renewable natural resources, and improving the comprehensive functioning of soils while achieving acceptable or improved economic returns for the farmer. A symposium was convened at the 2005 ASA-CSSASSSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT, to address the theme “Integrated Crop–Livestock Systems for Profit and Sustainability.” The goals of the symposium were to (i) highlight the benefits and costs of integrated agricultural systems in comparison with specialized systems, (ii) describe some climate- and scale-specific opportunities for successful integration of crop and livestock operations, and (iii) attract a diversity of agricultural scientists and other agricultural professionals who together could creatively and successfully bridge the gap between current and future agricultural systems. The design of future agricultural systems should rely on a healthy balance of historical, current, and idealistic perspectives.