- Diversification of crops can insulate against disease & extreme weather events whilst offering the farmer an alternative income.
- Intercropping can mimic the light canopy of natural forest & support Avian populations by providing nectar & protection.
In the Daily Science - Emma Bryce discusses how farms can double as wildlife refuges whilst benefiting the farmer.
Almost 20 years of gathered data from a variety of diversified crops in Costa Rica has shown significant 20% increase of endemic & endangered birds in the farms that practice crop diversity – rather than following the monoculture trend. Not putting all your eggs in one basket could work as a good income strategy as well as the more obvious proven benefits. The data spanned the wet and dry seasons of this region, and compared three distinct habitats from lowland to forest – and a range of crops such as sugarcane, coffee & pineapple plantations. Researchers found that despite indicators of global warming (rainfall decline & temperature increases) the bird communities in the diversified farms thrived, whereas drought conditions on the other monoculture ventures caused decrease in bird numbers.
“Birds are helpful yardsticks of environmental change—and so these findings could have relevance for other wildlife, the researchers say. Farms that are good for birds are also good for other species. We can use birds as natural guides to help us design better agricultural systems.”
“Plus, diversified farms are more likely to be set within more natural forested surrounds—which can also further buffer against extremes—as opposed to monoculture, which typically involves the conversion of huge stretches of the landscape into just one crop”.