Research shows the value of concentrated agriculture

Three pillars: High efficiency production by all means; low yield production to support farmland species; habitat restoration

What if greater productivity could be achieved on less farmland so that more space is dedicated to natural habitats, richer biodiversity and greater opportunities for net zero emissions targets?

This concept of conserving and expanding habitats to create natural landscapes in a high yielding agricultural environment (a management practice also known as land saving) is gaining ground as a means of restoring threatened ecosystems. and vulnerable while maintaining sustainable food production.

The idea was laid out in a research paper by Andrew Balmford, Professor of Conservation Sciences, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge in the UK. He stressed the need to obtain the highest levels of production from land and water already cultivated in order to save greater amounts of natural land for biodiversity, healthy wildlife populations and carbon capture.

“Ideas about saving land have been circulating in agricultural literature for some time,” Balmford said. “I started having lively discussions about them, which led to the development of the framework, overseeing a series of very good doctoral and post-docs in the field. “

Balmford said areas dedicated to intensive agriculture need to be as productive as possible. However, he noted that some wildlife species thrive on traditional farmlands where ideal habitats support animal populations that otherwise struggle.

But the main focus of his article focused on areas of natural land left untouched while cultivated land was made highly productive to achieve equilibrium.

“Most species do much better if habitats are left untouched, which means reducing the space needed for agriculture,” he said. “Cultivated areas need to be as productive as possible. “

Even so, he said, there will still be a need for low-yielding agriculture in areas where certain species thrive in the farming environment.

“We are neutral on how farmers could achieve high and sustained yields, provided they do so at low (environmental) costs through other means such as chemical runoff and soil runoff etc. “, did he declare. “In some cases this may involve high-tech solutions, but there are also promising conservation farming methods. In many cases, simply adopting existing best practices would take us a long way. “

According to the press release, the article published by Balmford summarizes a decade of global research on the trade-offs between crop production and biodiversity. While all wildlife should be the losers if the mid-century food goals of feeding nine billion people are met, more species would “fare less badly” under an extreme economy of land and land. ‘concentrated agriculture.

Balmford’s three-tier agricultural model was recommended by the National Food Strategy (NFS) commissioned by the UK government and is expected to form the basis of a new framework for rural land use.

“What we mean (in the three-tier model) is high-yielding production (however achieved), low-yielding production tailored to meet the needs of species that thrive only on farmland, and conservation or conservation. restoration of large blocks of natural habitat. “

He said the results of his study have been replicated in many field sites around the world.

According to the press release, Balmford said that when millions of Chinese farmers turned to a simple system that adapts farming methods to local soil and weather conditions, yields increased by 11% while the use of fertilizer has been reduced by a sixth. Raising carp in paddy fields where fish eat parasites, provide fertilizer through faeces, and themselves constitute an additional crop is another potential, while emerging technologies such as stimulated photosynthesis in rice offer the potential. promise of high and sustainable returns.

But farming systems must meet the food needs of society, otherwise these systems will fail, he said.

“You cannot convince people to save nature if they are hungry,” he said. “We have to make sure that we can harvest enough from the biosphere while preserving the planet. Conservation must be pragmatic.

Balmford said current research will examine farmers’ preferences, the important implications of the concept of concentrated agriculture, including animal welfare, the use of antimicrobials and the risk of emerging infectious diseases, and the use of the same application in fishing and forestry.

The research study was published in the Journal of Zoology.

About Keneth T. Graves

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