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    Three new studies confirm that exposures to common insecticides during pregnancy can cut a child’s IQ 4% to 7%  by age 9.
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Healthy Farm Index Biodiversity Calculator

May 13, 2015
Strip Cropping Photo credit: Liz Sarno

Strip Cropping
Photo credit: Liz Sarno

For a link the the calculator and a webinar showcasing the tool, scroll to the bottom of the page!

The concept of healthy farms brings to mind fertile soils, clean water, and abundant wildlife. These amenities or ecosystem services were at one time taken for granted, but are now increasingly in the news and scientific literature, as we recognize that many are being degraded.  Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from nature.  Global intensive conventional farming, with a focus on maximum production, has resulted in decline of many ecosystem services.  The Healthy Farm Index (HFI) collaboration with Professor John Quinn at Furman University enables farmers to measure and optimize multiple ecosystem services to prevent the decline of on-farm biodiversity.  The HFI also communicates the value of ecosystem services and ensures that ecosystem services remain in the decision-making process of farmers, agency personnel, and other stakeholders.

John Quinn, Furman University

John Quinn, Furman University

Services from nature’s ecosystems, including from well-managed working landscapes, benefit society and each of us.  Although we are well aware that food production costs dollars, time, and labor, we often do not consider the fact that agriculture depends on natural processes to assemble sunlight, water, and soil nutrients into an ear of corn, to pollinate a fruit crop, or to provide benefits of pest suppression.  These services, and the management practices that support them, are difficult to value in a traditional sense. Consequently, conventional economic means of valuing agricultural landscapes do not typically recognize these essential services or include them in economic decisions.  Despite their value and importance, many individuals remain unaware of ecosystem services. Recognizing and communicating the value of ecosystem services is essential to ensure their protection in the future.

Services provided by healthy agricultural systems include the production of food, fiber, and fuel, biological control, pollination, biodiversity conservation, aesthetic landscapes, carbon sequestration, climate control, purification of air and water, production of high quality soil, flood control, and breakdown of waste into nutrients. Though ecosystem services are provided free of charge, their estimated global value exceeds $33 trillion dollars per year. Beneficial species such as insects and birds, for example, provide an estimated $4.5 billion in biological pest control and $3.1 billion in pollination services annually.

Farm Landscape Photo Credit: John Quinn

Farm Landscape
Photo Credit: John Quinn

Agricultural practices such as conservation buffers, agroforesty, mixed-farm systems, and organic management can improve the quality of these and other services. These practices improve habitat for pollinators, natural enemies of crop pests, and wildlife; provide food and fiber; sequester carbon; moderate crop microclimate; and reduce soil loss.

The HFI focuses on ecosystem services provided by wild biodiversity in organic farm systems. This biodiversity calculator encompasses the multi-functional nature of sustainable farm systems and reflects a vision of sustainable farming. It incorporates multiple outputs from a farm system, reflecting the values of these outputs in a group of indicators within ecological, environmental, and socio-economic categories using measures of farm profitability, biological diversity, and ecosystem services to and from agroecosystems.

Windbreaks Photo Credit: John Quinn

Windbreaks
Photo Credit: John Quinn

The Healthy Farm Index addresses management decisions on fields and farm, the area over which the farmer or landowner has the greatest level of control. Understanding the driving forces, tradeoffs, and relationships at field and farm scales will improve the effectiveness of whole farm management.

Recognizing the importance of ecosystem services to human well-being is an essential first step to sustaining healthy ecosystems now and for the future, and it is essential to ensure that the broad array of services is part of the decision-making process. The Healthy Farm Index seeks to improve how decisions are made by providing a full range of outcomes from farm decisions; not just how yield or profit will change. Ultimately, the Healthy Farm Index is a potential means to bring about payments for ecosystem services. Payments for ecosystem services benefit landowners who provide these services for the greater good with the support of society as a whole through payments or subsidies.

 

 


Healthy Farm Index Online Calculator

Click on the image below or this link to reach the online calculator. To download the Instruction Manual or for more information click here.

 

 

Healthy Farm Index Webinar

A spring 2016 webinar is embedded below or available at this channel as shorter sections 

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