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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Estimating potential increase in nutrient and organic loading to New England waters associated with projected expansion of grass-based livestock production
  • Primary Author: Elizabeth Colburn (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    A New England Food Vision (Donahue et al. 2014) reviews current New England food production and estimates that the region could improve its agricultural self-sufficiency to fifty-percent of consumption in the next fifty years. The increased production would occur largely through converting up to four-million acres of forest to pastures and hayfields for grass-fed livestock production. This research examines the potential implications for water quality by predicting overall inputs of nitrogen, phosphorus, and organic carbon from the projected numbers of livestock; estimating retention by pasture and hayfield soils and vegetation; and projecting loadings to surface waters and groundwater. Current work focuses on a set of farms studied by Harvard University researchers in the 1940s and ’50s, using existing data on each farm’s soils and their capacity to hold nutrients to estimate variability among farms in predicted nutrient inputs with a given level of cattle stocking. Future work will expand to examine other livestock and, if funding becomes available, to carry out soils testing at farms where rotational grazing is practiced, and comparing the results with sampling at farms where pastures are continuously grazed.

  • Research Category: Watershed Ecology