Mapping the social landscape of grazing management in the Corn Belt: A review of research and stakeholder perceptions of the multifunctionality of Iowa grazing systems
Author(s)Petrehn, Mae Rose
Qualitative Social Research
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AbstractAgricultural systems that incorporate perennials in the form of grassland pasture have consistently been lauded for the balance of ecological and economic performance they provide, both at the farm and landscape level. The multiple functions grazing systems provide are being explored in increasing detail as ways to mitigate negative externalities associated with expanding commodity crop production. This thesis work provides two distinct contributions to the development of performance indicators within perennial systems that utilize grazing as a tool to provision multiple benefits. The first being a comprehensive review of literature, primarily research-based, pertaining to the grazing as a form of agricultural production, as well as its role as a tool to maintain ecological functionality in grasslands. This review, as Chapter 2, is designed to serve as an information hub regarding the resources for grazing systems in the context of Iowa's farming landscape, and discusses possibilities for developing incentives for grazing management that provisions economic and ecological benefits. The second endeavor explains the rationale for and outcomes of a case study based upon qualitative data relevant to an Iowa Bird Conservation Area in a working agricultural landscape. This exploratory research project provides a real world scenario for how stakeholders view the role of grazing systems in both conservation and production contexts. Chapter 3 provides an overview of this work, including factors that facilitate and inhibit the development of grazing systems that provision multiple benefits. Chapter 4 focuses on the preferred formats for communication and education regarding grazing systems that model a `balance' of ecological and economic considerations. Results indicate livestock producers as well as natural resource professionals see key challenges to developing these systems as an issue of access to knowledge and venues to share knowledge appropriate for the specificity of grazing systems. Concomitantly, the Bird Conservation Area model was identified as holding much promise in terms of its flexibility and scale, in terms of targeting outreach and incentives to livestock producers and natural resource professionals who wish to form partnerships that manage grasslands for `beef and birds.'