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Drivers of decoupling and recoupling of crop and livestock systems at farm and territorial scales

Rachael D. Garrett, Environmental Policy Group, Departments of Environmental Systems Science and Humanities, Social, and Political Sciences, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland; Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, MA, USA
Julie Ryschawy, AGIR, Université de Toulouse, INPT, INRAE, France
Lindsay W. Bell, CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Toowoomba Qld, Australia
Owen Cortner, Environmental Policy Group, Departments of Environmental Systems Science and Humanities, Social, and Political Sciences, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland; Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, MA, USA
Joice Ferreira, Embrapa Amazônia Oriental, Belém, Brazil
Anna Victoria N. Garik, Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, MA, USA
Juliana D. B. Gil, Plant Production Systems, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Laurens Klerkx, Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Marc Moraine, UMR 0951 INNOVATION, INRAE, CIRAD, Montpellier SupAgro, Montpellier, France
Caitlin A. Peterson, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
Júlio César dos Reis, Embrapa Agrossilvipastoril, Sinop, Mato Grosso, Brazil
Judson F. Valentim, Agroforestry Research Center of Acre, Embrapa Acre, Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-11412-250124

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Abstract

Crop and livestock production have become spatially decoupled in existing commercial agricultural regimes throughout the world. These segregated high input production systems contribute to some of the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges, including climate change, nutrient imbalances, water pollution, biodiversity decline, and increasingly precarious rural livelihoods. There is substantial evidence that by closing the loop in nutrient and energy cycles, recoupling crop and livestock systems at farm and territorial scales can help reduce the environmental externalities associated with conventional commercial farming without declines in profitability or yields. Yet such “integrated” crop and livestock systems remain rare as a proportion of global agricultural area. Based on an interdisciplinary workshop and additional literature review, we provide a comprehensive historical and international perspective on why integrated crop and livestock systems have declined in most regions and what conditions have fostered their persistence and reemergence in others. We also identify levers for encouraging the reemergence of integrated crop and livestock systems worldwide. We conclude that a major disruption of the current regime would be needed to foster crop-livestock reintegration, including a redesign of research programs, credit systems, payments for ecosystem services, insurance programs, and food safety regulations to focus on whole farm outcomes and the creation of a circular economy. An expansion of the number of integrated crop and livestock systems field trials and demonstrations and efforts to brand integrated crop and livestock systems as a form of sustainable agriculture through the development of eco-labels could also improve adoption, but would likely be unsuccessful at encouraging wide-scale change without a more radical transformation of the research and policy landscape.

Key words

innovation; integrated crop livestock systems; mixed farming systems; socio-technical transitions; sustainable agriculture; technology adoption

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087