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Journal Articles Grass and Forage Science Year : 2022

Farming with forages can reconnect crop and livestock operations to enhance circularity and foster ecosystem services

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Guillaume Martin

Abstract

Agriculture has undergone dramatic technological and cultural changes over the past century. Many would argue that the changes have been unquestionably positive with huge gains in productivity, reduced labour requirements, and alleviation of food insecurity for most people. However, the adoption of increasingly specialized and separated crop and livestock enterprises has also had widespread negative consequences resulting in (a) decline in biodiversity, (b) degradation of groundwater and surface waters with agrochemical pollutants, (c) poor soil health with monoculture crop production and frequent soil disturbance, (d) intensive greenhouse gas emissions from both specialized cropping systems relying on external inputs and concentrated animal feeding operations that accumulate wastes, and (e) general lack of ecological integrity among components of these specialized systems. Diversified agricultural systems using annual and perennial forages offer opportunities to elevate ecological synergies when crop and livestock operations are integrated. Integrated crop-livestock systems can internalize nutrient cycling, provide cultural control of weeds, insects and diseases, and share resources in a circular-based agroecosystem. Cover crops could be transitioned into nutritious annual forages for livestock grazing on currently specialized crop production farms with appropriate local incentives. Perennial forages in ley farming or in pasture-crop rotations have historical relevance and are a proven practice for conserving nutrients, improving soil health and enhancing biodiversity. Redesigning contemporary agriculture with mixed-use farming techniques could greatly reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and invigorate soil health. We suggest that incorporating different types of forages across a diverse landscape can enhance agricultural sustainability and ecological integrity.

Dates and versions

hal-03869295 , version 1 (24-11-2022)

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Alan Franzluebbers, Guillaume Martin. Farming with forages can reconnect crop and livestock operations to enhance circularity and foster ecosystem services. Grass and Forage Science, 2022, ⟨10.1111/gfs.12592⟩. ⟨hal-03869295⟩
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