Richard Teague discusses the goals and methods of the Grazing Ecology & Management Project, which determines best practices for rangeland management
To ensure long-term sustainability and ecological resilience of agroecosystems, agricultural production should be guided by policies that ensure regenerative cropping and grazing management protocols. Changing current unsustainable high-input agricultural practices to low-input practices that regenerate ecosystem function will be necessary for sustainable, resilient agroecosystems.
Effective soil management provides the greatest potential for achieving sustainable use of agricultural land with an uncertain and variable climate. With appropriate management of grazing and cropping enterprises, soil function can be regenerated to improve essential ecosystem services and farm profitability. Affected ecosystem services include carbon sequestration, water infiltration, soil fertility, nutrient cycling, soil formation, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and increased ecosystem stability and resilience.
To accomplish this, scientists need to partner with farmers who have improved the environment and excel financially to convert experimental results into sound environmental, social, and economic benefits regionally and globally. Benefits include addressing questions at commercial scale; integrating component science into whole-system responses; identifying emergent properties and unintended consequences; incorporating pro-active management to achieve desired goals under changing circumstances; and including the potential of the human element to achieve superior economic and environmental goals. Implementing regenerative cropping and grazing management protocols that include ruminant grazing animals has been demonstrated to be necessary for long-term ecological resilience of agricultural landscapes.
Permanent cover of forage plants is highly effective in reducing soil erosion, and ruminants consuming only grazed forages under appropriate management result in more carbon sequestration than emissions. Incorporating forages and ruminants into regeneratively managed agroecosystems can elevate soil organic carbon, improve soil ecological function by minimizing the damage of tillage and inorganic fertilizers and biocides, and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
Using regenerative cropping and grazing, leading conservation farmers and ranchers have achieved superior results in ecosystem improvement, productivity, soil carbon and fertility, water-holding capacity, and income stability and profitability.