Animals and soil sustainability

Domestic livestock animals and soils must be considered together as part of an agroecosystem which includes plants. Soil sustainability may be simply defined as the maintenance of soil productivity for future generations. There are both positive and negative aspects concerning the role of animals in soil sustainability. In a positive sense, agroecosystems which include ruminant animals often also include hay forage-or pasture-based crops in the humid regions. Such crops stabilize the soil by decreasing erosion, improving soil structure and usually require fewer chemical inputs. Monogastric animal culture is based on an agroecosystem consisting of mainly grain crops. These crops can result in the soil being exposed to water and wind erosion although soil conservation practices that significantly reduce soil losses may be followed. The management of animal manures is not always compatible with soil conservation practices. Careful management of the nutrients in manure is absolutely necessary to avoid nitrate contamination of ground water or phosphorus loading of streams and lakes. In a negative sense, increases in animal livestock populations in association with human population growth are promoting desertification in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world. The key component for a fully compatible and acceptable association between domestic animals and soil productivity is proper management. Careful management of the components of an animal-based agroecosystem is required if soil productivity and environmental quality are to be maintained. Although we have much to learn, technologies are available to move a considerable way towards this ideal state
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DOI 10.1007/BF02014481
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A Forage-Based Vision of Ontario Agriculture.E. Ann Clark & B. R. Christie - 1988 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 1 (2):109-121.

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