A team of interdisciplinary scientists at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences received a $1 million, three-year grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Inter-Disciplinary Engagement in Animal Systems (IDEAS) grant program to examine the environmental and economic outcomes of a range of crop-livestock integration approaches in collaboration with Ohio farmers to quantify the tradeoffs and synergies of these approaches to help inform and guide decision-making among farmers.
The team is comprised of seven faculty from the School of Environment and Natural Resources, Animal Sciences, Horticulture and Crop Sciences, and Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
Over the last 50 years, both crop and livestock production systems in the United States have become more and more specialized. Specialization has been associated with increases in productivity and efficiency, but the separation of crop and livestock farming has contributed to declines in soil quality, increased water quality challenges, climate change, and growing farm vulnerability to volatile weather and markets.
“With greater social and political attention to these broader outcomes, there is a lot of interest in developing 21st century models for re-integrating crop and livestock production,” said Doug Jackson-Smith, who is the lead investigator on the project and a professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. “Ohio is a perfect place to explore this topic since we have great examples of farms that use a wide range of farming systems, from fully specialized to fully integrated.”
While formal experimental trials have demonstrated the potential economic and environmental outcomes associated with re-integrating crop and livestock production, there is little good information available from typical working farm operations, especially in the eastern Corn Belt, Jackson-Smith said.
“For this to be a practical solution for farmers, we need to know how well alternative strategies work under realistic production conditions. This major USDA investment will give us a fantastic opportunity to partner with farmers to discover the best options for livestock and crop integration in Ohio and across the region,” said Marília Chiavegato, assistant professor in Horticulture and Crop Science and Animal Science and one of the co-leads for the project.
The Inter-Disciplinary Engagement in Animal Systems (IDEAS) is a cross-cutting program of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) with a goal to bridge traditional disciplinary divides and address complex issues in animal agriculture.
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