Dr. Juliana Jaramillo
Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture Go Hand-in-Hand
The loss of biodiversity around the planet continues to generate headlines – and with good reason. Healthy, abundant biodiversity is critical to preserving life on Earth. Soil microbes help plants grow and thrive. Healthy plants provide food and habitat for animal species. And those animal species, such as pollinators, are part of a vast, interconnected food chain.
The reasons for biodiversity decline are as complicated as the network of ecosystems and species it sustains. The latest assessment from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES) makes clear that biodiversity loss is a critical problem with many factors including climate change, land-use change including urbanization, pollution, and the spread of invasive species.
There is no question that agriculture, primarily through land-use change has an impact on biodiversity. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organization noted in its 2019 report on The State of the World’s Biodiversity on Food and Agriculture, “Demographic changes, urbanization, markets, trade and consumer preferences strongly influence food systems, frequently with negative consequences for [biodiversity] and the ecosystem services it provides. However, such drivers also open opportunities to make food systems more sustainable, for example through the development of markets for biodiversity-friendly products.”
I'm proud to lead Bayer's biodiversity team. This is a group made up of people from many different backgrounds that are all focused improving biodiversity around the world through sustainable agriculture.
From soil organisms and beneficial insects like pollinators to insects and animals that live in and around crop production areas to genetic diversity of crops themselves, healthy, abundant crops depend on healthy ecosystems and biodiversity. So, it makes sense that farmers and the agriculture industry are keenly focused on improving biodiversity. While there is still much progress to be made, here are a few ways modern, sustainable agriculture is already working to reverse biodiversity loss:
Dr. Juliana Jaramillo
Biodiversity Strategy & Sustainable Agriculture
- Good Agricultural Practices encompass a wide range of strategies and techniques designed to grow healthy crops in a more sustainable way. These practices can include integrated pest or weed management practices, crop rotation and diversification that support associate biodiversity and soil fertility through the additional formation of soil organic matter facilitated by earthworms and other soil organisms.
- Conservation tillage practices are designed to maintain the soil structure and the species it sustains, building up organic matter in the soil, reducing erosion, retaining water, and sequestering carbon. Conservation tillage are enabled by modern farming tools like genetically modified crops and herbicides.
- Maintenance of natural habitats or the creation of non-crop, semi-natural habitats is an important strategy taken by many farmers, particularly in areas of their farms that are less productive for crops. Higher performing crop varieties, enhanced crop protection products, and precision and digital farming tools all help increase production on existing farmland, allowing for more land to be saved for biodiversity and ecosystems.
- Crop diversity through breeding programs to develop new varieties like drought tolerance or resistance to insect pests help build resilience to factors like climate change and enable practices like crop rotation.
- Product stewardship efforts, along with technologies like seed treatment applications of crop protection products help farmers use fewer resources and inputs, reducing the impact on the environment.