With additional support from McDonald’s USA, Arizona State University researchers seek to improve farm resilience and reduce environmental impacts
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established in the 2014 Farm Bill with bipartisan congressional support, awarded a $1.25 million grant to ASU Foundation for A New American University. Researchers will collect data on Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing to analyze how this grazing technique increases farm resiliency, contributes to carbon sequestration, improves soil biodiversity, and impacts animal wellbeing and productivity. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from McDonald’s USA for a total $2.5 million investment. Researchers continue to raise funds in order to expand the project in the southeastern U.S. and the Upper Great Plains.
AMP grazing uses light weight, portable fencing systems to move animals strategically around a large pasture, allowing for dense grazing interspersed by long periods of recovery for the land. This technique mimics the natural grazing patterns of wild ruminants and is highly adaptive for a variety of livestock. This project will quantify how AMP grazing impacts farm and ranch productivity, as well as measure environmental impacts of production.
“Farmers and ranchers are important stewards of our nation’s natural resources. It is vital that we understand how different practices affect the economic and environmental resilience of agriculture,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is proud to support science that will positively impact producers while sustaining our natural resources in the long term.”
The research is being led by Principal Investigator (PI) Peter Byck with the School of Sustainability and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
“Our interdisciplinary team of scientists are thrilled with FFAR and McDonald’s support,” said Byck. “We will study what these innovative farmers and ranchers have been researching for 10 to 20 to 30 years on their own land. We feel these producers are the original scientists with AMP grazing – and they put their livelihoods on the line for their research. We will simply measure their results.”
Researchers will collaborate with cattle ranchers to study farming operations in the Southeast and Great Plains regions in the U.S. to understand producer perceptions about AMP grazing and evaluate real-world applications of the practice. The project will also address issues of animal wellbeing and productivity.
“Beef is among McDonald’s top sustainability priorities,” said Townsend Bailey, director of McDonald’s U.S. supply chain sustainability. “Understanding the science connecting grazing practices, soil health, and farmer economic well-being will help us direct investments in our supply chain to support continuous improvement in beef sustainability.”
McDonald’s $1.25 million grant match funding with FFAR is part of the company’s overall $4.5 million commitment to the research.
Arizona State University, FFAR and McDonald’s will celebrate this research grant and share the importance of the work in Washington, DC on April 4. For more information or to attend the event please visit http://bit.ly/grazingresearch.
Researchers on this project include:
- Steve Apfelbaum, Ph.D., co-PI, Applied Ecological Services
- Jason Rowntree, Ph.D., co-PI, Michigan State University
- Allen Williams, Ph.D., co-PI, Chief Ranching Officer, Joyce Farms
- Russ Conser, Standard Soil
- Francesca Cotrufo, Ph.D., Colorado State University
- Jennifer Hodbod, Ph.D., Michigan State University
- David Johnson, Ph.D., New Mexico State University
- Michael Lehman, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
- Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., Ecdysis Foundation
- Keith Paustian, Ph.D., Colorado State University
- Benjamin Runkle, Ph.D., University of Arkansas
- Janice Swanson, Ph.D., Michigan State University
- Wendy Taheri, Ph.D., TerraNimbus
- Greg Thoma, Ph.D., University of Arkansas