Birds are Beneficial Too!
Recent research by WFA Technical Advisors Dr. Sacha Heath of U.C. Davis, and Rachael Long of U.C. Cooperative Extension provides evidence that birds can help fight insect pests in agricultural crops. They found that birds, particularly Nuttall’s Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches, reduced Codling Moth larvae on walnut trees by 46%. Sara Kross, another of our advisors, also found that birds reduce Alfalfa Weevils, which negatively impact the quality and yields of alfalfa hay, by more than 30%.
Field edge habitat, like hedgerows, tree lines and riparian areas, attract beneficial birds to walnut orchards and alfalfa fields. Bird predation of Codling Moths greatly increased in walnut orchards with increases in surrounding habitat. Hedgerows do not increase the number of pest birds. Hillary White, of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, found that pest birds, American Crows, Red-winged Blackbird and Brewer’s Blackbird, were more abundant in agricultural fields in Yolo County that have bare or weedy margins than in hedgerows.
The Farm Bill: A Citizen's Guide - Panel Discussion
In April, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) welcomed WFA founder and board president, Dan Imhoff and Christina Badaracco, authors of The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide, for a panel discussion on food and farm policy with Dr. Adam Shinegate, Johns Hopkins University Professor and Chair of Political Science. CLF’s policy program manager, Carolyn Hricko moderated a conversation that covered many topics ranging from the historical context of farm policy to present day battles, including conservation, commodities, hunger, health and nutrition. As Imhoff and Badaracco state in their book, “If you eat, pay taxes, care about biodiversity, worry about the quality of school lunches, or notice the loss of farmland and woodlands, you have a personal stake in the Farm Bill.” Hricko described their book as “a remarkably concise comprehensive and compelling guide to the Farm Bill.”
The panel discussion clarified and reinforced the vital connection between our natural resources and food producers. Discussion of efforts to improve our current farming system included: introducing a fifty year plan in the Farm Bill for transitioning to an ag-ecology system; linking crop insurance to conservation practices; and financial support for many small farms instead of fewer, large farms which leads to consolidation in agriculture.
Rewilding Earth Unplugged
Rewilding Earth Unplugged: Best of Rewilding Earth 2018 is a collection of thirty articles chosen from one hundred articles published in 2018 by the Rewilding Institute. WFA Advisory Board Member John Davis is the institute’s director. The articles discuss the philosophy and science of critical environmental issues including: protection of biodiverse networks of wildlands and water; the human overpopulation crisis; restoration of top carnivores; wildlife friendly farming; and groups that are working to restore and rewild the planet.
Protecting Wild Nature in Bavaria
A recent Yale Environment 360 article, In Conservative Bavaria, Citizens Force Bold Action on Protecting Nature, explores how Germany’s most politically conservative region adopted a referendum and progressive law to change industrial farming practices and protect biodiversity.
Bavaria, one of Germany’s 16 federal states, has had a long history of conservative politics including opposing environmental regulation and initiatives. However, the 2017 Krefeld insect study which reported a 75% decline in the biomass of flying insects in German nature reserves over the past 25 years, alarmed Bavarians about industrial farming’s destructive impact. As a result, an alliance of environmental NGOS and two political parties, Bavarian Greens and the Ecological Democratic Party, initiated a campaign for a referendum which is rarely used in German politics. The Max Planck Society and Bavaria’s state-sponsored research institutions also supported the initiative.
The initiative mandated:
- Setting aside 13% of its land to create “ecological infrastructure network” of meadows, wetlands, hedgerows and habitats to rebuild populations of animals, birds and insects;
- Using organic practices and reducing fertilizers on all state-owned farm areas;
- Establishing organic farming on 30% of privately owned farms by 2030;
- Outlawing drainage of wetlands and removal of hedgerows and other habitats;
- Strictly protecting riverbanks from damaging farming practices; and
- Reducing insect mortality from artificial light.