A recent study was published showing the devastating loss of crop diversity over the last three decades. This alarming loss of crop diversity is not just about fewer varieties of food crops, it has much bigger implications. For example, fields of monocultures diminish soil fertility, eliminate wildlife habitat, and encourage pesticide applications.
There is also concern over how farmers can fare in the face of climate change without on-farm diversity. The study pointed out that in extreme weather events, which are happening more often, a farmer without crop diversity tends to suffer greater losses than a farmer growing several different crops.
While the study was specifically about crop diversity, a 2012 meta study found on-farm biodiversity and wildlife habitat to be critical for the farm. A farmer's best defense to climate change and unpredictable weather patterns is to not only have crop diversity but also to incorporate wildlife habitat.
Wild Farm Alliance and our partners are developing a guide specifically for new farmers on practices and techniques for on-farm conservation that will help them build resiliency and have a viable future in the face of climate change. We will be using this guide and experts to hold field days and workshops in order to equip new farmers with the right tools.
Farmers are critical managers of our nation’s wildlife. Historically, farms had more wild edges and wildlife existing on and moving through the land. Even though this is no longer the norm, farms still hold the solutions to our biodiversity crisis; they comprise almost 60% of the continental U.S. Agriculture’s large footprint is the natural solution to finding the necessary space to help our ecosystems thrive again.
Researchers involved in the study about crop diversity, had some poignant remarks about biodiversity and agriculture, “Biodiversity is important to the ecosystem function...biodiversity in agricultural systems is linked to critical ecological processes such as nutrient and water cycling, pest and disease regulation, and degradation of toxic compounds such as pesticides. Diverse agroecosystems are more resilient to variable weather resulting from climate change and often hold the greatest potential for such benefits as natural pest control.”
The next generation of farmers are taking over the fields, it is time to act and reinvigorate our farms with habitat!