Experts call for new program of long-term ag research

Long-term agricultural research is key to meeting U.S. demands for the three "Fs" -- food, fuel and fiber -- according to a USDA-led investigation that includes a UC Davis faculty member.

The study calls for the creation of a national Long-Term Agricultural Research (LTAR) program that includes growers, conservationists and other interested parties. Titled "Long-term Agricultural Research: A Research, Education, and Extension Imperative," it is published in the current edition of the peer-reviewed journal BioScience.

"Our project concluded that new types of agricultural research are critical for sustaining the environment and strengthening local communities," said Louise Jackson, a co-author of the study and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.

"It's important that long-term research have a good connection with local and regional land users and that research trials or long-term monitoring take place not only on research stations, but also in growers' fields and in nearby natural reserves."

Jackson is an affiliate of the campus' Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI), as well as a member of the UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems project team that has been comparing Central Valley crop rotations and sustainable farming practices since 1988. Their long-term projects are located at UC Davis' Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, a part of the ASI.

Institute Director Tom Tomich noted that the researchers' call for a new federal, long-term research agenda is similar to the ASI's strategic research and education priorities for agriculture, resources and the environment, including the integration of agricultural systems at the farm/ranch and landscape levels.

"We're poised to do this work," said Tomich. "In California, as in most of the U.S., agricultural production systems are usually managed as independent units, with little regard for the entire agricultural landscape."

Jackson noted that agencies like the California state departments of Conservation and Food and Agriculture are interested in agricultural landscape research.

"This larger research model includes a much broader context for agricultural research," she said. "That's very exciting!"

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