Early Stages of Diversification of the Mellinger Farm
Klaiber, H. Allen
Moledina, Amyaz A.
Hoy, Casey W.
Contributors:Hoy, Casey W.
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Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. CFAES Annual Research Conference. Entomology. 2018
Farms that achieve economies of scale by specializing and growing in size are common in US agriculture. Small and mid-sized farms, however, need a different kind of economy. Economies of scope rely on managing diverse enterprises, to access more profitable markets and reduced cost of off-farm inputs. Research, much of it from developing countries, has demonstrated that diversified production systems have ecological and economic benefits, but research on the process of diversification in US agriculture is needed. In the Agroecosystems Management Program (AMP), The Ohio State University, we are investigating the effects of the early stages of diversification on a model farm (Mellinger Farm) that has been producing primarily corn and soybeans for the past few decades. We are examining the costs and returns, particularly in the form of ecosystem services that accrue during the first three years of the diversification process. The diversification scenario includes a small grain, an oilseed crop, 3 years of a diverse pasture mix, with and without pastured broiler chicken during the first two years, and mixed vegetables. Improved yield and increased arthropod species diversity suggest that ecosystem services are beginning to accrue in the first year after diversification. Vegetable production was profitable in 2017 without the use of any off-farm inputs other than tillage and fencing. Increased arthropod diversity on 2nd year pasture plots demonstrates the importance of longer term pasture in a diversified rotation. We expect the impact of ecosystem services to increase over time in terms of measurable parameters such as yield, soil health, and biodiversity. As a result, we expect the reduction of off-farm inputs like fertilizer and pesticides to increase profitability over time.