The more biodiversity in agriculture, the higher the yield

20 Oct, 2019

Nature provides many services to agriculture - pollination, pest control and much more. A study in which Agroscope has participated in 1500 sites around the world, concluded that humans must take care to preserve as much biodiversity as possible in order to ensure the sustainable services of nature. The international research team published this conclusion in Science Advances magazine.

Wild bees pollinate fruit trees and other crops. Wasps and carnivorous beetles feed on pests. And there are still many other active animal species for the benefit of man. The greater the diversity of species and the smaller the agricultural landscape, the greater the positive effects of these natural service providers. On the other hand, where large monotonous areas predominate, the diversity and quantity of beneficial organisms is drastically reduced, which ultimately also has a negative impact on crop yields.

Conclusions from 89 studies

More than 100 scientists participated in the project and evaluated 89 studies on the relationship between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services for agriculture. The studies took place at nearly 1500 sites worldwide - from cornfields in the United States to wheat fields in Switzerland to rapeseed fields in southern Sweden, coffee plantations in India and mango plantations in South Africa.

Fewer insecticides thanks to greater biodiversity

For the first time, global analyzes confirm, in a consistent assessment, that biodiversity loss contributes significantly to a reduction in biological pest control and pollination in agricultural landscapes discovered. In addition, the study shows for the first time that the disappearance of these two ecosystem services leads to a significant reduction in yields.

For Agroscope's Matthias Albrecht, the study shows "how important structured agricultural landscapes are both for the preservation of biodiversity and for the promotion of biodiversity-based ecosystem services, such as pollination and the natural struggle against pests, and finally for stability of yields ".

In Switzerland, biodiversity is promoted as part of the required environmental benefits PER. In this context, Agroscope scientists have developed and optimized elements such as flowering strips for pollinators and beneficial organisms as well as floral fallows to promote biodiversity and the resulting ecosystem benefits.

"In Switzerland, there are different types of biodiversity-promoting surfaces, such as hedgerows, extensive meadows or flowerbeds, that serve this purpose," says Albrecht. "The high ecological quality of these surfaces is a decisive factor in achieving the desired positive effect on biodiversity and ecosystem services. "

Studies by Agroscope have shown that these elements can be useful for pollination and pest control. However, these elements are not enough to halt the loss of biodiversity and the loss of ecosystem services that results. It is therefore urgent to intensify efforts.

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