Sustainable Agricultural Practices and Technologies Promote Biodiversity
February 20, 2013
Land Use & Biodiversity
A key element of sustainable agriculture includes protecting biodiversity to the greatest extent possible. Advances in agricultural technologies, such as innovative crop protection products and biotech seeds, allow farmers to make the most of existing cropland to prevent expansion into natural habitats. In fact, dramatic gains in agricultural productivity in the past 50 years have saved natural habitats the size of North America from conversion into farmland. About 30-60 percent of these increases are credited to improved crop varieties through plant breeding and biotechnology. From 1996 to 2009 alone, biotech crops worldwide prevented 75 million hectares of land from being converted for farming.
Dramatic gains in agricultural productivity in the past 50 years have saved natural habitats the size of North America from conversion into farmland.
Additionally, herbicide-tolerant biotech crops enable farmers to use environmentally sound herbicides instead of tillage for weed control, which leaves crop stubble in the field, improving habitat and food sources for insects, birds and other animals. Integrated pest management or IPM, a system of managing pests that is designed to be sustainable and protect biodiversity, also helps create wildlife habitats around farms. For example, animals that can live in agricultural areas include barn owls, fox, turkeys and deer.
Finally, plant science technologies, such as herbicides, can help manage the spread of invasive alien species, which threaten biodiversity and natural habitats by outcompeting native plants. In the mainland U.S. alone, between 25 and 40 per cent of extinction threats for native plants come from invasive plants and animals.