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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #328666

Title: Low input and intensified crop production systems effects on soil health and environment

item Weyers, Sharon
item GRAMIG, GRETA - North Dakota State University

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/29/2016
Publication Date: 3/22/2017
Citation: Weyers, S.L., Gramig, G. 2017. Low input and intensified crop production systems effects on soil health and environment. In: Al-Kaisi, M., Lowery, B., editors. Soil Health and Intensification of Agroecosystems. London, UK: Academic Press. p. 277-304.

Interpretive Summary: Co-authors conducted a literature review and synthesis of low-input and intensified production systems focusing on soil health and sustainability. The review compared results from three long-term experiments to three on-farm case studies. Sustainable approaches that used diverse crop rotations, reduced chemical inputs, and integrated livestock, had positive impacts on soil health. In particular, increased soil organic matter, nutrient availability, diversity and activity of above and below ground fauna, and disease control were benefits of these approaches. Crop yields were generally comparable between systems using these approaches and systems that used intense application of inputs or energy. Benefits from reduced energy or cost of inputs were also possible, and might counteract the negative impact of lower yields. Scientists, land managers, and policy makers will benefit from this study when they need to develop management systems that can sustainably provide food, feed, fiber and fuel to a growing world population.

Technical Abstract: The material in this chapter covers the concepts of "low-input" and "intensified" production systems in the context of input intensity and sustainability. Research-based case studies are presented that draw out the practicalities of implementing production practices on an input intensity gradient from external inputs to captured inputs. Captured inputs are those generated from natural capital such as N fixation, and biological control. The discussion focuses on how management strategies along this gradient support soil health and crop productivity. Farm-based case studies are used to explore how individual producers have employed or adapted low-input and agroecosystem approaches to build viable environmentally sound farming systems. A national case study, focused on Cuba, furthers understanding of generating a national food system under a constrained input environment that is capable of meeting food security needs. Conclusions are draw on the practicality of adopting low-input or agroecosystem practices to generate a sustainable intensified agricultural production systems needed to supply food, feed, fiber and fuel to support a growing world population.