Integrated Livestock/Row Crop Conservation Farming System
Our goal is to further develop, evaluate and promote an integrated livestock/ feed/ fiber/ food/biofuels conservation farming system to reduce risks, enhance soil sustainability, increase crop yield and quality with reduced pesticide loading while increasing the economic situation for the farming community in Florida and the U.S. The “sodbased system” is one of only 2-3 long-term projects in the U.S. that is able to look at the many different facets of production of row crops and forages with and without livestock. We have a 160 acre farm scale system at NFREC in Marianna with cattle and a smaller replicated trial at NFREC in Quincy that compares to the best rotation using conservation tillage technology with and without irrigation. Our team of scientists, post docs and students have been able to look at many different aspects of the farming system and can start into an established system and gather immediate data. We continue to improve and modify aspect of the system as we gain insight into practices that add value to the farm system and much of these are capture in a simple Excel Budget Sheet that is interactive. This farming system was first implemented at the NFREC in Quincy in 2000 and in Marianna in 2002 to develop and compare the economic and environmental benefits of conventional and sod based farming systems using conservation tillage systems. These rotations compare a 4 year rotation that included two consecutive years of bahia grass followed by peanuts and cotton, respectively, with the conventional rotation of peanuts followed by two years of cotton using conservation tillage technology in both systems. The system has shown enough success with conservation groups that NRCS is funding startup costs for growers through EQIP funds. The impact of perennial grasses/livestock with row crops using conservation tillage continues to be investigated along with interactions on the environment and economics of the farm system by a team of scientists and graduate students. The system is open for conferences, meetings and tours with many different groups coming through each year. More than 30 scientists and students have worked on and are continuing to work with the system.