Farmers urgently need to diversify, but they cannot do it alone

Jun 14 2021

Boosting biodiversity on farms is crucial to make them more resilient to climate change and protect future food security, but it will not happen without change across the food supply chain from seed producer to consumer, agronomists say.

Many solutions exist for ways to increase the diversity of plants grown on farms – from planting different varieties of the same crop, and different crops on the same land, to combining trees, crops and livestock on the same farm.
But these are often not used by farmers, despite mounting knowledge of their economic and environmental benefits.

Rotating crops, or planting different crops together on the same land, can boost soil health, making farms less reliant on chemical fertilisers.
Plant diversity helps pollinators stay healthy. ‘Losing biodiversity on farms means that we lose the pollinators, and without pollination, there will be … no food in the end from (many) crops,’ said Dr Bea Maas, an ecologist at the University of Vienna.

About 75% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Adding diversity to farms also provides a buffer against pests. Some plants can be used to attract pests away from food crops, and diversity provides habitats for natural enemies of pests, says Dr Maas.

One of the most important forms of biodiversity is having a mixture of structures on the farm – trees, bushes, hedgerows, crops. ‘The (expansion, intensification and) simplification of our agricultural landscapes is the main factor of biodiversity loss globally,’ said Dr Maas.

Source: Horizon Magazine