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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Project Number: 6227-21310-009-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 01, 2012
End Date: Sep 30, 2017

Objective:
This research will develop integrated strategies to manage multifunctional agricultural landscapes that include grazing livestock, grasslands, and woodlots for optimal economic and natural resource benefits. Holistic and systems type research by nature is complex, multifaceted, and difficult to implement, but also provides a unique opportunity to target knowledge gaps and problem solve issues that might not be apparent when evaluating individual commodities or singular agricultural applications. The interdisciplinary research team will take a multifaceted, interactive approach to complex system agriculture using our expertise in animal science, forestry, agronomy, and soil science to work towards the common goal of developing technologies useful to improve production and profitability of farmers. Objective 1: Determine best management practices and overall preferred production systems for growing trees and annual/perennial crops in similar and diverse landscapes on small farms in the South Central US that are either grazed or harvested for biomass production. Subobjective 1A: Develop knowledge on practices that affect herbage-tree productivity in intensively managed stands of pine and upland hardwoods. Sub-objective 1A.1: Evaluate effects of management practices on growth of pine and hardwood species. Sub-objective 1A.2: Document responses of alley-cropped herbage productivity as affected by plantation design. Subobjective 1B: Determine nutritive value of woody and herbaceous browse in an emulated organic silvopasture. Objective 2: Improve the efficiency, production capacity, and sustainability of integrated low-input forage and livestock producers in the South Central US and similar environmental areas around the world. Determine management practices to minimize off-farm inputs while enhancing production efficiency, soil health and fertility, and forage quantity and quality; determine best management practices for efficient nutrient use for pastures; and determine the long-term effects of improper grazing, rotational grazing, haying, and buffer strips on nutrient and sediment runoff from pastures in the South Central US. Subobjective 2A: Determine management practices for organic, grass-fed, and conventional livestock to minimize off-farm inputs while maximizing production and enhancing soil and forage attributes. Subobjective 2B: Determine best management practices for efficient nutrient use for pastures. Subobjective 2C: Determine the long-term effects of overgrazing, rotational grazing, haying, and buffer strips on nutrient and sediment runoff from pastures. Objective 3: Develop improved ruminant animal management systems to enhance the productivity, efficiency and viability of animal production on low input farms.

Approach:
Sustainability will be achieved for small and mid-sized farms by increasing conventional, organic, and grass-fed beef cattle, sheep, and goat productivity on forage-based and silvopasture systems. The influence of conventional (strategic use of anthelmintics) and nonchemical (forages, including sericea lespedeza, and copper oxide wire particle administration) parasite control on production efficiency (number of lambs born and weaned per ewe) of sheep will be determined. Best management practices (management intensive grazing systems and forage combinations) will be determined for organic, grass-fed, and conventional beef and sheep production, on especially low input farms, to minimize off-farm inputs while maximizing production efficiencies and enhancing soil and forage attributes. Experiments will determine environmental impact of subsurface application of poultry litter on grass pastures. A long-term study utilizes watersheds to determine the impacts of various pasture management strategies (rotational grazing, overgrazing, haying, tree buffers) on pasture hydrology and nutrient runoff. Experiments will be conducted to evaluate effects of management practices, including fertilization and integration with livestock, on growth of pine and hardwood species. Responses of alley-cropped herbage productivity as affected by plantation design will be examined. The relative nutritive value of forages and trees in a bristly locust silvopasture will be determined.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014
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