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Environment and integrated agricultural systems

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Modern agriculture has done an excellent job producing food, feed and fiber for the world's growing population, but there are concerns regarding its continued ability to do so, especially with the world's limited resources. To adapt to these challenges, future agricultural systems will need to be diverse, complex and integrated. Integrated agricultural systems have many of these properties, but how they are shaped by the environment and how they shape the environment is still unclear. In this paper, we used commonly available county-level data and literature review to answer two basic questions. First, are there environmental limitations to the adoption of integrated agricultural systems? Second, do integrated agricultural systems have a lower environmental impact than more specialized systems? We focused on the Great Plains to answer these questions. Because of a lack of farm-level data, we used county-level surrogate indicators. The indicators selected were percent land base in pasture and crop diversity along a precipitation gradient in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. Evaluated over the four-state region, neither indicator had a strong relationship with precipitation. In the Dakotas, both percent pasture land and crop diversity suggested greater potential for agricultural integration at the mid-point of the precipitation gradient, but there was no clear trend for Kansas and Nebraska. Integrated agricultural systems have potential to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment despite concerns with nutrient management. Despite advantages, current adoption of integrated agricultural systems appears to be limited. Future integrated agricultural systems need to work with environmental limitations rather than overcoming them and be capable of enhancing environmental quality.
Hendrickson, J.R. , Liebig, M.A. , Sassenrath, G.F.
In the special issue: Principles of Integrated Agricultural Systems.
Renewable agriculture and food systems 2008 Dec., v. 23, no. 4
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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