- Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), medics/alfalfa
- Animals: poultry
- Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
- Pest Management: prevention
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter
To test the hypothesis that ecologically functional agricultural systems can enhance land-health while sustaining agricultural productivity, we have integrated poultry grazing and raised bed vegetable production on pastures of three differing diversity levels. We are examining how pasture diversity and rotational poultry grazing affect the agro-ecosystem functions of crop productivity, arthropod and plant community dynamics, and soil fertility. Constructively interacting with the ecological processes of a given farm may help to reduce costs and inputs, improve product quality and profitability, and enhance farm or even regional ecosystem health. Other outcomes will focus on increasing awareness of sustainable agriculture practices and values among farmers, researchers, and the public. A farmer advisory committee has been organized to oversee the project’s practical relevance and to ensure its useful dissemination. The outreach activities will include field days, conferences, workshops, and participation in community events.
Project objectives from proposal:
Outcomes: The outcome of this project will be an integrated production system based upon the utilization of ecological processes within the agronomic system. The mechanics and values of this system will be disseminated among three distinct target groups: farmers, researchers, and the consumer public.
Short-term outcomes begin with the research objectives designed to increase knowledge of:
How pasture diversity affects forage, poultry, and vegetable productivity.
How pasture diversity and poultry grazing impacts insect and plant populations.
How this integrated system affects soil organic matter quality and nutrient mineralization potentials.
Short-term outcomes will also include:
Enhanced awareness of the system’s potential and limitations among each of the target groups.
Increasing farmers’ skill and knowledge necessary to adapt this system to their present operation.
Collaborating with local pastured poultry farmers, and implementing ‘backyard’ poultry projects in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Intermediate-term outcomes would be:
The adoption and adaptation of this system into existing farms.
Influencing consumer choices to select for sustainably produced foods.
Long-term, systematic outcomes served by this work include an enhanced understanding of natural system agricultures and a broadening of agro-ecological restoration work. Systematic changes may also be observed in a consumer public that is more intimately involved with its food production systems. Such developments would help return agriculture to a goal which is “not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings (Fukuoka, 1978).”