The economic benefit of biodiversity in agriculture

Words: Linda Thomson

Image: Zagrammosoma latilineatum by Elia Pirtle

Along with sustainability, biodiversity is a current catchword. Our work demonstrating the benefits of non crop vegetation on increasing biodiversity and especially “beneficials’ which contribute to pest control in crops. Enthusiasm for the project is shown by the excellent attendance at a recent workshop – report of which has been highlighted as an  “Editors pick and trending article” in Good Fruit and Vegetables.

World-wide, an immense amount of research demonstrates landscape changes can be harnessed to provide pest control services. I have applied this at the local level to identify sympathetic management practices that sustain populations of natural enemies and enhance biodiversity, as well as support the conservation of a wide range of native flora and fauna. Successful implementation of these practices is associated with reduced pesticide application and increased environmental health. The potential economic gain easily counteracts the short-term outlay with long term financial advantages including reduced labour and pesticide inputs.

One of my current projects involves providing support in monitoring the progress of re-vegetation projects funded by Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority. This project aims to find ways to combine productive agriculture with on-farm natural resource management (NRM), in a series of simple on-farm trials of on farm vegetation planting that can easily be put in place by growers in the region. Trials and monitoring are ongoing but thus far reinforce the concept planting flowering native vegetation to provide nectar and habitat for beneficial insects is a simple farm practice that can be achieved at relatively low cost.