New $10M project to study, support diverse perennial forage systems

With a $10 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a multi-state transdisciplinary team of researchers led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison is studying diverse perennial forage systems and promoting their adoption across the United States.
The project involves more than 50 researchers and stakeholders from 23 universities, two USDA-Agricultural Research Service centers and 12 farmer organizations, industry groups, NGOs and government agencies.
Prevailing agricultural systems in the U.S. are dominated by annual crop monocultures that lack resilience to extreme weather, are challenged by soil erosion and other environmental issues. By integrating perennial crops and forages with livestock, this new project seeks to transform the landscape to be more resilient, and to quantify the contribution of forage and livestock systems to soil health and ecosystem services.
The project will convene a nationwide network of 50 farm pairs that represent all the major agro-ecoregions of the United States. One farm has already adopted diverse perennial forage systems and is paired with one interested in transitioning towards more diverse perennial systems. Researchers will partner with these farm pairs to measure and compare numerous production, environmental, social and economic factors.
This project is significant in that it is one of the few that recognize the inextricable linkage between livestock and forage production systems. When considered together, their value to Oregon Agriculture is $1.3 trillion.
The team will share their research results through outreach and education materials throughout the five-year term of the award. The project will further analyze the economic conditions, social structures and public policies that hinder the adoption of diverse perennial forage systems and develop strategies to overcome identified constraints. The long-term goal is the adoption of diverse perennial forage systems across more than nine million hectares of land in the U.S.
The project’s team includes faculty from Michigan State University, North Dakota State University, Oregon State University, Saint Cloud State University, University of Maryland and University of Wisconsin–Madison.
This project was announced on Oct. 6 in a USDA news release about new awards made through the department’s AFRI Sustainable Agriculture Systems program. 
This project is supported by AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems Coordinated Agricultural Program (SAS-CAP) grant no. 2021-68012-35917 from USDA NIFA.

Oregon State University faculty recognized at the national level by participation in this grant include David Hannaway (CSS, OSU PD), Guojie Wang (CSS), Serkan Ates (ANS), Gordon Jones (CSS), and Kimberly Japhet (CSS).