Flexible Farming (FlexFarm) Production Systems: Integrating Crops and Livestock for Diverse, Resilient, and Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes
CSANR Project 154
Our overall research goal is to contribute to global, national, and regional food security and the ecological and economic sustainability of the inland Pacific Northwest’s (iPNW) agricultural landscape. Specifically, the project aimed to study the potential of integrated crop-livestock (ICL) production systems as resilient and sustainable alternatives to the iPNW’s existing, rainfed agricultural landscape dominated by intensive, small-grain monoculture systems. Factors that signal the timing is right for transitioning toward regional ICL systems include: (1) shift in consumer preferences and demand toward healthier, sustainable, and locally produced food; (2) increasing societal emphasis on ecosystem services and environmental protection in response to greater awareness of the carbon, nitrogen, and energy footprints of food and fuel production; (3) advances in mobile grazing and forage production technologies such as low cost, portable, and flexible animal fencing and watering systems; (4) need for crop diversification and intensification for improved agronomic, environmental, and economic sustainability and to feed a growing human population; and (5) more stringent government regulations and environmental pressures on animal and crop nutrient management. We designed on-farm, ICL research sites—in cooperation with several farmers and ranchers—under a range of dryland (rainfed) conditions within the iPNW agricultural landscape. We anticipate that future implementation of “real” ICL production systems will result in the following outcomes: (1) sustainable agricultural intensification that increases food quantity, quality, and diversity; (2) a more balanced portfolio of agricultural products that are consumed regionally, nationally, and internationally; (3) regional resource use optimization and an internally reliant and resilient production system that is responsive to global climate and societal change; and (4) tightened and reconnected nutrient, energy, and carbon cycles that protect the environment and improve the supply of ecosystem services. The BIOAg Planning Grant helped us create interdisciplinary teams and links that had never worked together before for future research proposal submission to an appropriate funding agency.
Additional Funds Leveraged
The intention of this project was to apply for funding for an integrated project in the NIFA Food Security program. Unfortunately, the newly released 2016 RFA was changed from the previous year and the FlexFarm project did not fit the new focused priority areas. We have examined all of the RFAs that have been released and have found no opportunity to apply. We wish to return the balance of the planning grant funds. We believe that we have created a highly competitive team, have engaged stakeholders, and have developed solid experimental designs for the purpose of submitting a competitive proposal in the future. We intend to continue searching for appropriate funding programs. A part of the team did recently apply for a USDA Western SARE grant using some of the ideas in this project.