Grassland agriculture is an important industry for livestock production and land management throughout the world. We review the principles of nutrient cycling in grassland agriculture, discuss examples of grassland farming systems research, and demonstrate the usefulness of whole-farm simulation for integrating economic and environmental components. Comprehensive studies conducted at the Karkendamm experimental farm in northern Germany and the De Marke experimental farm in the Netherlands have quantified nutrient flows and developed innovative strategies to reduce nutrient losses in grassland farming systems. This research has focused on improving the utilization of manure nutrients on the farm by including grain crops in cropping systems with grassland and by incorporating manure handling techniques that reduce nitrogen losses. Although the information generated in experimental farms is not always directly applicable to other climates and soils, it is being transferred to other regions through computer simulation. A whole-farm model calibrated and verified with the experimental farm data is being used to evaluate and refine these strategies for commercial farms in other areas. Simulation of farms in northern Europe illustrate that on the sandy soils of this region, maize (Zea mays L.) silage can be used along with grasslands to increase farm profitability while maintaining or reducing nutrient loss to the environment. Use of cover crops, low emission barns, covered manure storages, and direct injection of manure into soil greatly reduces N losses from these farms, but their use creates a net cost to the producer. By integrating experimental farm data with whole-farm simulation, more sustainable grassland production systems can be cost-effectively evaluated, refined, and transferred to commercial production.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science