Biodiverse Farming and Soil Management Bennie Diedericks
Agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation have been traditionally viewed as incompatible. Ecologists and conservationists often focus on pristine or little intervened habitats to save the last remnants of wild nature. Such conservation focus is of limited value. In the last decade there has been a shift in focus to interdisciplinary studies of human-influenced ecosystems in the context of socially and economically sustainable agriculture.
Intensified land use in agriculture and forestry is irrefutably the main cause of global change and biodiversity loss. Half of the plant species lost from pastures in Germany since WW2. Yield of cereals tripled since 1960, but is responsible for 30 % of the decline in European bird populations. 25 – 75 % reduction in nutrient values of food in the last 50 years.
Farming Activities Shortening crop rotation cycles Decreasing crop diversity Increasing input of mineral fertilizers Increasing input of pesticides Implementation of genetically modified (GM) crops Deep ploughing, not minimum tillage Cultivating monocultures of high-yield varieties Increasing size of arable fields Machine-driven farming Lowering water table by drainage
Landscape Implications Farmers specializing on one or few crops instead of mixed farming Converting natural vegetation to arable fields and blocks Destroying edge habitats (field boundaries, buffer zones along rivers) Reallocating land to increase field size and make farms more compact. Simplifying landscapes with a spatially and temporally limited number of land-use types increasing landscape homogeneity Giving up traditional, low-intensity land-use management Avoiding set-aside fallows and cultivating formerly abandoned area (old fields) Reducing resistance to invasion of introduced species Lowering landscape-wide water tables Fragmenting natural habitat
Soil fertility is measured by: Microbe count – under attack from pesticides and fertilizers Plant health – healthy plants do not attract insects or disease
Plants are the vechiles to transport minerals and nutrients from the soil to animals and people Plant derived minerals are 98% bio-available Plants can not make minerals
Measure the efficiency of your fertilization program against the amount of chemical inputs required as leaf and soil applications. The more the inputs, the less efficient. Chemicals treat symptoms, it does not solve problems
1g of healthy soil contain: More bacteria than there are people on earth 60 000 m of fungi hyphae 100-1000’s protozoa 5-500 nematodes 100-1000’s micro arthropods
Components of soil care / fertilization program Chemical Biological Physical Irrigation Management
Produce nutrition food. Forget pure organics, just nutritionally balanced, chemical free food The physical and cultural development of people depend on the soil
Demands on producers/farmers driven by: -EU Environmental Directives -Corporate Social Responsibility -Agricultural Standards
A successful business is no longer just profitable, but is also able to predict and meet customer expectations and deliver social, economic and environmental well- being.
Retailers do not consider that customers will pay more for products with an ‘environmental’ lable. Value to the producer therefore must come from being able to obtain contracts and make sales to the retailer.
Environment 2010: Our Future, Our Choice: - Climate change - Nature and Biodiversity - Environment, Health and Quality of Life - Natural Resources and Waste