Organic Center collaborates on farmer tool to improve biodiversity

Partners with Furman University, Wild Farm Alliance, to produce valuable resource

Organic farmers and certifiers seeking to plan and improve their practices to protect natural resources and foster biodiversity now have a scientific tool to do just that.

The Biodiversity Guidance Calculator is the product of a collaboration undertaken by The Organic Center, Furman University and Wild Farm Alliance to help organic farmers meet the Biodiversity and Natural Resources Guidance of the National Organic Program (NOP) and the latest conservation planning science. As part of requirements for organic certification, organic farmers must draw up organic system plans (OSPs) that demonstrate not only that they avoid prohibited practices such as using toxic and persistent pesticides, but that they take proactive steps to safeguard and improve soil and water quality, foster biodiversity in species on the land through wildlife and habitat protection, and manage overall ecosystems.

To develop this tool, researchers prioritized indicators that would allow farmers and certifiers to assess any changes in biodiversity linked to using a particular action.

“For instance, rather than ask a farmer whether he or she set aside natural habitat, the indicator would look at the practices used and evaluate any resulting consequences such as an increase in pollinators,” explains Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center.

“The tool reflects formal and informal feedback from organic farmers across the country. Consequently, it should be easy to use and engage farmers as individuals and as members of their community. Ideally, farmers using the tool will feel that they are having an impact on local and regional biodiversity via management of their farm,” added Dr. John Quinn, Associate Professor of Biology at Furman University.

The current version of the tool reflects farmer input on what they found most useful, and drafted recommendations from Wild Farm Alliance for continued alignment between on-farm biodiversity conservation and OSP development.

The Organic Center is presenting a free webinar open to the public on this simple tool for tracking and managing biodiversity for NOP compliance this Wednesday, September 25, from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern. Taking part will be Dr. Jessica Shade from The Organic Center and Dr. John Quinn (Associate Professor of Biology, Furman University). They will highlight how this farmer-friendly tool will aid farmers in technical decisions to increase on-farm biodiversity and comply with new guidance.

Funding for the tool came from The Organic Center, the UNFI Foundation, and National Co+op Grocers.


The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental impacts of organic food and farming and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.

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