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Grassland-cropping rotations: an avenue for agricultural diversification to reconcile high production with environmental quality

Abstract : A need to increase agricultural production across the world to ensure continued food security appears to be at odds with the urgency to reduce the negative environmental impacts of intensive agriculture. Around the world, intensification has been associated with massive simplification and uniformity at all levels of organization, i.e., field, farm, landscape, and region. Therefore, we postulate that negative environmental impacts of modern agriculture are due more to production simplification than to inherent characteristics of agricultural productivity. Thus by enhancing diversity within agricultural systems, it should be possible to reconcile high quantity and quality of food production with environmental quality. Intensification of livestock and cropping systems separately within different specialized regions inevitably leads to unacceptable environmental impacts because of the overly uniform land use system in intensive cereal areas and excessive N-P loads in intensive animal areas. The capacity of grassland ecosystems to couple C and N cycles through microbial-soil-plant interactions as a way for mitigating the environmental impacts of intensive arable cropping system was analyzed in different management options: grazing, cutting, and ley duration, in order to minimize trade-offs between production and the environment. We suggest that integrated crop-livestock systems are an appropriate strategy to enhance diversity. Sod-based rotations can temporally and spatially capture the benefits of leys for minimizing environmental impacts, while still maintaining periods and areas of intensive cropping. Long-term experimental results illustrate the potential of such systems to sequester C in soil and to reduce and control N emissions to the atmosphere and hydrosphere.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 8:15:12 PM
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Gilles Lemaire, Francois Gastal, Alan Franzluebbers, Abad Chabbi. Grassland-cropping rotations: an avenue for agricultural diversification to reconcile high production with environmental quality. Environmental Management, Springer Verlag (Germany), 2015, 56 (5), pp.1065-1077. ⟨10.1007/s00267-015-0561-6⟩. ⟨hal-01236544⟩



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