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Continuous Living Cover (CLC) refers to agricultural systems in which there are living plants and roots in the ground throughout the entire year. This can take many forms, from winter cover crops sown between summer annuals to agroforestry practices and perennial grain production. The core of the CLC approach ...

Continuous Living Cover (CLC) refers to agricultural systems in which there are living plants and roots in the ground throughout the entire year. This can take many forms, from winter cover crops sown between summer annuals to agroforestry practices and perennial grain production. The core of the CLC approach is field- and farm-level implementation on a broad scale that translates to landscape-scale transformation: moving away from months of bare soil and wasted solar energy and water to continuous soil coverage and longer periods of growth and crop production. It addresses a suite of environmental challenges, notably groundwater quality, water use efficiency, hypoxia, and soil health, and may result in socioeconomic benefits such as improved financial stability for producers, long-term farm sustainability and community resiliency. There are a number of potential strategies to realize CLC, but in order to be achievable, they must also be economically viable for producers. Ultimately, as CLC strategies are more fully woven into field, farm, and landscape, CLC can offset the undesirable impacts of input-intensive annual monocultures. These CLC strategies demonstrate how agriculture can be a solution to sustaining our natural resource base while providing new opportunities for farmers; developing more diverse, responsible, and nutritious supply chains; and improving the vitality of rural communities.

Monoculture-based, input-intensive agriculture results in wide-scale impacts including reduced soil and water quality, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and loss of biodiversity. Farm bill programs and insurance factors discourage the implementation of diverse cropping system strategies, which results in producers planting a narrow range of commodity crops and exposes them to risks associated with significant market and climate fluctuations. The CLC approach is broad enough to allow for flexibility in implementation across landscapes but specific enough to outline actual practices that can form a strategy to achieve healthy soil, water, air, and communities. While some CLC cropping and pasture system approaches apply more narrowly to specific environmental conditions, the foundational concepts are nearly universal. CLC provides a way to frame these efforts and creates a pathway to meet the broad goals of regenerative agriculture. This research topic collection will characterize CLC and contextualize it with a set of cross-disciplinary articles, presenting cutting-edge research and aggregating key findings from the existing body of work. It will inform a broader audience of the potential benefits of these strategies, make them more accessible, and strengthen the concept of CLC in the fields of agriculture and agroecology.

We are seeking papers highlighting the latest research and short reviews of continuous living cover (CLC) strategies in perennial biomass, grains, and forage; agroforestry, silvopasture, well-managed grazing, and integrated crop-livestock systems; and annual cover crops, winter annuals, and crop rotations. We aim to include a cross-disciplinary mix of agronomic, economic, social, and environmental research. Original Research and Review articles summarizing past work in these areas are welcome.

This Research Topic has been developed in collaboration with Green Lands Blue Waters.

Keywords: Continuous living cover, perennial agriculture, cover crops, agroforestry, rural communities, winter annuals, regenerative agriculture, management intensive grazing, social sustainability, agroecology, soil health, water quality, equity, climate adaptation, supply chains, integration, environmental benefits, resilience, diversity


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