Plant-Herbivore Interactions: Applying Behavioral Principles in Management

Carver Farm, Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Mo.

Sept. 22 to 24, 2009
Schedule (PDF)

Workshop speaker
Fred Provenza, PhD
Department of Wildland Resources
Utah State University
Logan, Utah 84322-5230
Meet the workshop speaker (PDF)

We will discuss functional interrelationships among soils, plants, herbivores, and people as they pertain to managing landscapes. We will highlight behavioral principles and processes, and talk about their implications for agricultural production involving feedlots, pastures, and rangelands; enhancing and maintaining biodiversity through grazing; ecosystem restoration involving grazing, invasive species, and riparian areas; enhancing wildlife values by mitigating human-wildlife conflicts; altering food and habitat preferences by minimizing damage to economically valuable crops and enhancing dispersion of grazing across landscapes; conservation biology including introductions into unfamiliar environments and ways to reduce performance losses in domestic and wild animals involving losses to plants with toxins. More generally, and most importantly, we will explore what it means economically, ecologically, and culturally for people and the animals they husband to be locally adapted to the landscapes we inhabit.

Once understood, behavioral principles can be translated into practices that provide an array of solutions to challenges people face in managing to improve the integrity of the land and to make a living from the land. Unlike the infrastructure of a ranch such as corrals, fences, and water development, behavioral solutions cost little to implement, they are not fossil-fuel intensive, and they are easily transferred from one situation to the next. In the case of grazing, for instance, behavioral solutions are increasingly attractive given growing economic and environmental concerns with the use of fire, herbicides, and mechanical means for rejuvenating landscapes.

Unfortunately, scientists and managers often ignore the power of behavior to transform systems, despite compelling evidence. We know the environment continually interacting with the genome during the growth and development of an organism creates behavioral responses. Though experiences during development in utero and early in life are especially critical, genome-environment interactions continue throughout life and they constitute what it means for all organisms to be locally adapted to landscapes. Thus, the issue isn't if creatures are adapting to ongoing changes in biophysical environments, they do so every day of their lives. The only question is whether or not people want to be a part of that process.

Conference support and funding

  • MO Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
  • USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Lincoln University
  • University of Missouri Extension

Conference planning

Media recording, editing and Flash conversion

  • Bob Weaber