What Are Wildlife-friendly Farming Strategies?
Wildlife-friendly farming strategies involve the creation of habitats for pollinators and crop pest predators that can create a symbiotic relationship between the wildlife and the farmers. Research on the subject has been performed for a period of six years by Richard Pywell et al., who compiled the findings in an article called “Wildlife-Friendly Farming Increases Crop Yield: Evidence for Ecological Intensification.”
The study compared three different experiments: a control field with nothing changed (BAU), a field with 3% of the usable land made into habitat (ELS), and a field with 8% of the usable land turned into habitat (ELSX) (Pywell et al. 2). Portions that were turned into habitat were described as being “at field edges and in awkward field corners” and were sown with various wild grasses, flowers, short-lived plants, or legumes depending on whether the field was designated as ELS or ELSX (Pywell et al. 2).
Ultimately, the results of the experiment proved that “the removal of up to 8% of land from production resulted in no net loss of yield at the field level, as per unit area productivity increased” (Pywell et al. 4). Because of some of the land being designated as habitat, the pollinators and pest predators who resided in the new habitat areas helped increase the amount of crop yield.
Some of the crops grown during the experiment did not benefit from the boost in pollinator activity, however. Beans were the crop that benefited the most from the boosted pollinator activity, with a yield increase of up to 35% (Pywell et al. 4). The other two crops were either self-pollinating or wind-pollinating, and therefore did not benefit from the increased pollinator activity (Pywell et al. 6).
Even considering that beans benefited the most from the habitat creation, the conclusion of the study is that wildlife-friendly strategies are viable:
By combining the treatment effects on individual crops, we were able to show that creation of wildlife habitat resulted in no loss to the farmer in terms of the monetary or nutritional energy yield across a typical 5-year arable crop rotation. Slightly lower yields of wheat and oilseed rape, owing to planting of habitats on cropland, were counterbalanced by the increased yield … of beans by 25% and 35%, respectively, for ELS and ELSX relative to BAU. (Pywell et al. 6)
Realistically speaking, there are two options that industrial farmers can take: they can either adopt wildlife-friendly farming strategies, or not. First we should consider the side of the industrial farmers, who would probably prefer to continue using the strategies that are already implemented.
Dzieza, Josh. “Bees, Inc.” Pacific Standard 8.1 (2015): 44-53. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Gardiner, Beth. “A Dangerous Cycle in Food Production.” The New York Times. 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 2 Sept. 2016.
Pywell, Richard F. et al. “Wildlife-Friendly Farming Increases Crop Yield: Evidence for Ecological Intensification.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282.1816 (2015): 20151740. PMC. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.