Submitted to: Sod-Based Cropping Systems Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2003
Publication Date: February 20, 2003
Citation: Stuedemann, J.A., Franzluebbers, A.J., Seman, D.H., Reeves, D.W. 2003. Potential outcomes of integrating cattle and cropping systems in southeastern major land resource areas. Sod-Based Cropping Systems Conference. p. 81-103. Technical Abstract: Crop rotations that use sod-based crops have been used for many years for various reasons. Beginning as a method to control soil erosion and build fertility, crop rotations have also been used to aid in parasite and pest control and more recently as improving the soil environment by increasing the soil carbon content. This paper investigates what would happen if currently cropped land were converted to pastureland as part of a sod-based crop rotation system. Land in the Southern Coastal Plain and the Southern Piedmont Major Land Resource Areas (MLRA) was identified together with cropping data from the 1997 Agricultural Census to provide recent cropping trends and statistics related to crop production. We then selected five crop scenarios using corn, cotton, peanut, soybean, and tobacco production and calculated the impact of converting 10% of cropland acres to pasture and beef cattle production. For the Southern Coastal Plain, if 10% of corn, cotton, peanut, soybean, and tobacco acres were converted to beef production there would be an increase of 71,429, 133,807, 48,690, 103,461, and 9,700 beef cows, respectively. In the Southern Piedmont, if 10% of corn, cotton, peanut, soybean, and tobacco acres were converted to beef production, there would be an increase of 13,619, 6,799, 1,265, 26,143, and 10,778 beef cows, respectively. Thus there would be 39.7% increase in numbers of beef cows in the Southern Coastal Plain as compared to a 6.6% increase in the Southern Piedmont. If one were to examine acreage, production, and dollar changes associated with each of the five crops, with the exception of tobacco, the magnitude of change associated with a conversion of 10% of the cropland to pasture would be much greater in the Southern Coastal Plain than in the Southern Piedmont. There are other benefits associated with conversion of cropland to pasture such as the sequestration of organic carbon. This conversion would not only result in substantial sequestration of soil organic carbon, it could beneficially impact water infiltration, rooting depth, soil microbial activity and biomass, and water stable aggregates, all of which could enhance crop production in the rotation.