Pastured Poultry/Crop Systems and Their Effect on Food Safety, Farm Economy, and Soil Quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $24,807.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: University of California, Santa Cruz
Region: Western
State: California
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kathleen Hilimire
University of California, Santa Cruz


  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Nuts: walnuts
  • Animals: poultry


  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing management, pasture fertility, range improvement
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, new enterprise development, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: social capital, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Integrating pastured poultry with fruit, vegetable and nut production is on the rise in California due to a high demand for pastured products and a desire by farmers to close on-farm fertility cycles. The rise in popularity of pasture-based agriculture has been accompanied by an increase in research, but there remain significant gaps in knowledge concerning Pastured Poultry/Crop Systems (PPCS). In my work, I conduct in-depth investigations of changes in soil fertility, soil organic matter and physical soil quality under PPCS in annual and orchard systems. I also analyze the cost of this practice and its contribution to farm enterprise diversity. Finally, I assess the effect of PPCS on foodborne pathogen levels, generating management information for growers to prevent contamination. Farmers are collaborators in this research and outreach, strongly contributing to its relevance and to producer adoption.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Determine whether fields that have been planted with pasture and grazed with poultry are suitable for crop cultivation with minimal addition of fertilizers, composts or cover crops.

    - Assess soil fertility, organic matter, compaction and soil moisture retention between treatment and control fields (September 2009 - December 2010; in progress)

    - Quantify crop growth via greenhouse experiments (November 2009 & April 2010; completed)

    2) Determine whether foodborne pathogens pose a problem for crops grown under Pastured Poultry/Crop Systems.

    - Analyze treatment and control soils for E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter and Salmonella (June - December 2010)

    3) Analyze the costs and benefits of Pastured Poultry/Crop Systems.

    - Gather information regarding barriers to adoption of this new practice via literature reviews and interviews with regulatory agencies (May 2009 - October 2010; in progress)
    - Interview 20 growers and specialists, such as organic livestock certifiers, with management and budget questions based on points identified as critical by farmer collaborators (April - August 2010; in progress)
    - Document successful integrated farmers to serve as models for interested growers (April - August 2010; in progress)

    4) Share results and support informed producer adoption.

    - Analyze data, prepare publications and write dissertation (October 2010 - September 2011)
    - Report results to farmers and extension agents through workshops, conferences and publications (January - September 2011)

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.