Organic farms can support beneficial insects when natural habitat is limited in the landscape
In an effort to reduce the use of harmful pesticides, farmers are looking for ways to enhance natural pest control by boosting numbers of natural predators of pests on their farms. A recent study published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment suggests that using organic practices will support on-farm populations of natural predators, reducing reliance on sources of beneficial biodiversity like nearby patches of natural habitat. This study measured natural enemy abundance on organic and conventional citrus orchards that were either near natural habitat or natural habitat was lacking in the immediate landscape. The study found that when natural habitat is present, natural predators are found in similar numbers in both conventional and organic orchards, which suggests that natural habitat can provide a steady “supply” of natural enemies for pest control. However, when that source of insects is lacking, significantly fewer natural predators are found in conventional orchards. These results suggest that organic farms can provide adequate resources to support populations of beneficial biodiversity when other habitat options are lacking, while conventional orchards are not harboring or supporting beneficial insects like organic orchards. As many previous studies have shown, organic farms do a good job of supporting beneficial biodiversity, and this study suggests that the benefit of organic is enhanced in landscapes where natural habitat is limited. While natural habitat is important and will benefit all farmers, organic farmers have an upper hand when natural habitat is lacking in agriculture intensive landscapes.
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