U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Europ. J. Agronomy 57 (2014) 21–30, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eja.2013.10.007


U.S. Government Work


Large-scale, energy-intensive, specialized production systems have dominated agricultural production inthe United States for the past half-century. Although highly productive and economically successful, thereis increasing concern with unintended negative environmental impacts of current agricultural systems.Production systems integrating crops and livestock have potential for providing additional ecosystem ser-vices from agriculture by capturing positive ecological interactions and avoiding negative environmentaloutcomes, while sustaining profitability. A diversity of ecologically sound integrated crop-livestock sys-tems have been and can be employed in different ecoregions: sod-based crop rotations, grazing covercrops in cash-crop rotations, crop residue grazing, sod intercropping, dual-purpose cereal crops, and agro-forestry/silvopasture. Improved technologies in conservation tillage, weed control, fertilization, fencing,and planting, as well as improved plant genetics offer opportunities to facilitate successful adoptionof integrated systems. This paper explores the use and potential of integrated crop-livestock systemsin achieving environmental stewardship and maintaining profitability under a diversity of ecologicalconditions in the United States.