Benefits of Agricultural Biodiversity (And What You Can Do to Increase It)
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Agriculture is perhaps the most crucial industry in the world. Years ago, people relied on the benefits of agricultural biodiversity for food and as a way of life. Although agriculture drastically changed over the years thanks to innovations in technology, the industry remains crucial for the economy and well-being of the population.
Industrial agriculture has recently been finding ways to revolutionize its practices. The demand for sustainable agriculture has increased as upcoming generations emphasize environmental friendliness. A significant factor of sustainable agriculture is by mimicking biodiversity on the farm just as it is in nature.
Agricultural biodiversity is essential for thriving farms. With a variety of plants and animals, a farm can be more productive and stable.
What Is Agricultural Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variety of animals, plants and microorganisms living both above and below the soil. In a natural ecosystem, biodiversity is essential for the habitat to survive. Biodiverse ecosystems are typically more stable and resilient to diseases, pests and other disturbances.
The goal of agricultural biodiversity is to mimic natural ecosystems. This means that farmers often use organic cropping systems to prevent weed, insect and disease problems while enriching the soil. They achieve this by having diverse crops throughout the growing season, rotating their crops, intercrop, cover crop, incorporating organic matter into the soil, using conservation tillage and having animals intermixed with crops and fields.
Often, more prominent farming industries rely on mono-cropping to ensure enough food and resources for the population. However, mono-cropping often strips fields of their resources. By integrating various plants on one farm through agricultural biodiversity, scenarios such as this can be avoided, leading to a much healthier food and farming system.
Benefits of Agricultural Biodiversity
There are multiple benefits of agricultural biodiversity. Below are some of the reasons why both industrial and small farms should integrate biodiversity.
Decreases Pest Problems
Fields filled with various plants are better at warding off the insect, animal and weed pests. For example, an herbivore like a deer or rabbit is more likely to stay in a crop where they know they like the food. If a field is full of corn and nothing else, the animal will stay there to fill up. Fields with a variety can boost natural defenses and make it harder for pests to infiltrate.
Additionally, adding diverse types of plants boosts beneficial organisms both above and below the ground. These organisms naturally control insects and can suppress weeds.
Improves Soil Health
Having diverse crop rotations helps improve the soil. Soils with various root systems are of a higher quality because it encourages dense populations of microorganisms. These microorganisms help the soil turn over nutrients. Further, a diverse crop can improve drainage and soil aeration and contribute to the soil structure to better support the plants.
Whether through plants or animals, increasing biodiversity on the farm can increase profits and decrease production costs. The addition of crops and animals that can withstand the climate, geography and managing factors will allow farmers to expand niche markets and marketing opportunities. Plus, if a particular crop is more expensive to produce in a specific year, it can fall back on the wide diversity of other crops.
How to Increase Agricultural Biodiversity
If you’re an agricultural worker, whether commercially or in your backyard garden, you can benefit from learning how to increase your agricultural biodiversity. Here are a few methods to do so.
Diversify Plant Species
A simple way to increase biodiversity is to diversify your plant species. Planting crop mixtures and varieties and beneficial flowers, perennials, hedgerows, and even leaving some areas uncultivated can increase diversity. This effectively boosts biodiversity. Further, if you add native plants near your crops, you can invite pollinators, which help your crops grow.
Use Cover Crops
Cover crops protect your soil from erosion when the field isn’t being used for production. You can plant cover crops between your regular cropping. These should be plants that are relatively easy to produce, control and establish. Various plants will allow for nitrogen fixation and attract pollinators.
Add Organic Matter
Finally, by adding organic matter, you can increase the biodiversity in the soil. It provides harbors for microbes in the ground, which can intensify soil activity, which lessens the chance of disease in your crops. The breakdown process returns the nutrients to the soil. Materials like compost, animal manure and leaves or twigs can all serve as organic matter.
Making Farming More Sustainable
The higher the biodiversity on a farm, the more resilient and sustainable it is. Biodiverse farms allow species to thrive, which can benefit the farm unceasingly.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.