“More biodiversity can produce greater yields”

 

Are high-yield harvests and insect-friendly, sustainable agriculture mutually exclusive? On the contrary, says Prof. Dr Christoph Scherber. The agroecologist heads the Centre for Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation Research at LIB. Together with his research team, he develops solutions for the transformation in agriculture towards more biodiversity.

A growing world population with a high demand for food is confronted with insect protection. Are ecology and economy mutually exclusive in agriculture?

“No, on the contrary: research is now required to actively search for solutions where ecology and economy can go hand in hand. “Biodiversity must be seen as a production factor – more biodiversity can even bring greater and more stable yields.”
“No, on the contrary: research is now required to actively search for solutions where ecology and economy can go hand in hand. “Biodiversity must be seen as a production factor – more biodiversity can even bring greater and more stable yields.”
“No, on the contrary: research is now required to actively search for solutions where ecology and economy can go hand in hand. “Biodiversity must be seen as a production factor – more biodiversity can even bring greater and more stable yields.”

What possibilities do conventional farms have to achieve good yields and at the same time slow down the insect decline?

“There are a variety of measures here. Within the crops, undersowing, mixed crops or a rich crop rotation help. In general, however, it is above all important to build up interlinking marginal structures that run like lifelines through the agricultural landscape. It is not always necessary to cultivate every square metre to the edge.”

To what extent is the intensification of agricultural use and the high dynamics of landscape change responsible for the current losses of biodiversity?

“The landscape that surrounds us has changed a lot in the last hundred years. Livestock farming no longer takes place outdoors, fields have been consolidated as part of land consolidation, and crops are increasingly dense in the fields. This leaves little space for weeds, breeding birds or other much-needed refuges for biodiversity in the agricultural landscape.”
“The landscape that surrounds us has changed a lot in the last hundred years. Livestock farming no longer takes place outdoors, fields have been consolidated as part of land consolidation, and crops are increasingly dense in the fields. This leaves little space for weeds, breeding birds or other much-needed refuges for biodiversity in the agricultural landscape.”

What do we know today about the causes and consequences of insect decline in agriculture?

“One of the main problems is the abandonment of traditional forms of use and the increasing mechanisation and automation of all work steps. Take the example of seed cleaning: Cornflower and corn poppy used to make our fields more colourful. Today, almost nothing of that is left. Farm animals and especially cattle are rarely kept outside nowadays. This leads to a less colourful landscape and fewer insects overall. However, many farmers are willing to change something and actively do something for biodiversity. There is a great opportunity here to bring more biodiversity back into agricultural landscapes.”
“One of the main problems is the abandonment of traditional forms of use and the increasing mechanisation and automation of all work steps. Take the example of seed cleaning: Cornflower and corn poppy used to make our fields more colourful. Today, almost nothing of that is left. Farm animals and especially cattle are rarely kept outside nowadays. This leads to a less colourful landscape and fewer insects overall. However, many farmers are willing to change something and actively do something for biodiversity. There is a great opportunity here to bring more biodiversity back into agricultural landscapes.”
“One of the main problems is the abandonment of traditional forms of use and the increasing mechanisation and automation of all work steps. Take the example of seed cleaning: Cornflower and corn poppy used to make our fields more colourful. Today, almost nothing of that is left. Farm animals and especially cattle are rarely kept outside nowadays. This leads to a less colourful landscape and fewer insects overall. However, many farmers are willing to change something and actively do something for biodiversity. There is a great opportunity here to bring more biodiversity back into agricultural landscapes.”

With which research projects at the LIB are you looking for solutions to make agricultural production more ecological?

FINKA: With this programme we promote insect biodiversity in arable farming in close cooperation with farmers. On trial plots, we do not use synthetic chemical pesticides against insects and field weeds. Other areas are cultivated as usual. The differences in the development of insect diversity are continuously monitored and discussed with the farmers.
FlowerBeet: Here we are testing whether an infestation of aphids in sugar beet cultivation can be controlled by beneficial insects – instead of the harmful use of insecticides. Aphids are often carriers of yield-reducing plant viruses. To promote the spread of beneficial insects, we plant flowering strips within the agricultural production areas.
NaPA: Here we work in Germany, Austria and Switzerland with innovative farmers who want to do something for nature. We review biodiversity-promoting measures, such as flower strips or organic farming, from the Baltic Sea coast to Vienna.
NaPA: Here we work in Germany, Austria and Switzerland with innovative farmers who want to do something for nature. We review biodiversity-promoting measures, such as flower strips or organic farming, from the Baltic Sea coast to Vienna.
NaPA: Here we work in Germany, Austria and Switzerland with innovative farmers who want to do something for nature. We review biodiversity-promoting measures, such as flower strips or organic farming, from the Baltic Sea coast to Vienna.
BioMonitor4CAP: Within the framework of this EU-funded research programme, we generate data through monitoring, which is used as a basis for political discussions and decisions in the course of a desired transformation in agriculture. From the data, we can identify the drivers of the biodiversity crisis and outline forecasts for the future.

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