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ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY OF CONVENTIONAL, REDUCED-INPUT, AND ORGANIC APPROACHES ON WESTERN CROP-RANGE-LIVESTOCK FARMS
We propose to investigate economic and environmental sustainability of conventional, reduced-input, and organic approaches in cash-crop and beef-calf production on small and medium-sized crop-range-livestock farms. Producers seeking alternative practices to decrease costs or increase value need region-specific information for the cold, dry, irrigated cropping and livestock production systems of the western U.S. We will establish a continuum of small plots for mechanistic research, large plots for systems research, and on-farm studies. For the intensive plot studies, six production systems (3 approaches x 2 systems) on four replicated plots will be established at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research & Extension Center in Lingle, WY. Cow-calf pairs will graze on rangelands in summer and be fed grain and forage from plots during fall and winter. Parameters to be measured over the four-year study period include 1) weed, pathogen, arthropod and nematode populations; 2) soil biological, physical, and chemical properties; 3) water use efficiency and soil moisture dynamics; 4) crop and forage growth, yield and quality; 5) livestock performance; and 6) economic viability. For the extensive, on-farm studies, five farms operating under each production system will be selected for on-farm monitoring of stable indicators of soil productivity, economics, and marketing potential for products from the three approaches. Agricultural systems conferences, extension bulletins, training workshops, and other programs aimed at a variety of learning styles will be developed to disseminate results. Research will be presented to Wyoming science teachers and incorporated into the Agroecology curriculum and other University of Wyoming agriculture courses.
USDA CRIS Project Information Link: 0216643