Woody vegetation increases on-farm biodiversity and reduces pest damage

Natural habitat like woods and natural grasslands are known to support more insect and wildlife biodiversity than agriculturally intensive landscapes, but not all insects and wildlife such as birds are welcomed by farmers, and natural habitat near farms can cause fear of crop losses due to their potential to atract pests. However, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems provides evidence to the contrary--that natural habitat near farms actually reduces damage to crops by insects and birds. The researchers studied 30 sunflower farms over two years and found that the farms with woody vegetation nearby experienced four times less insect damage than fields that were either bare or surrounded by only weedy field margins. Also, while the woody vegetation supported significantly more birds and diversity of birds, the damage to nearby sunflower crops did not increase. This is not the first study of its kind and the findings concur with other work that has shown that farms with nearby natural habitat experience less crop loss from pest damage. These results are important because it is critical that farmers who invest in improving biodiversity on their farms do not experience heavy losses from their conservation efforts. 


Banner Photo Credit: Simon Wilkes; unsplash.com