The effectiveness of environmental measures in agriculture for biodiversity and wild bee populations depends on various factors and your point of view. This is shown by agroecologists from the University of Göttingen, Germany, and the Center for Ecological Research in Vácrátót, Hungary. The research team found that when evaluating the effectiveness of different measures, whether in the field (organic farming) or beside the field (flower strips in conventional farming), the benefits for biodiversity should be valued differently. Comparable comparisons of environmental measures could easily be misleading, say scientists. The research was published in the journal Basic and applied ecology.
The researchers studied ten agricultural landscapes near Göttingen, each containing three fields of winter wheat: an organic field, a conventional field with flower strips and a conventional field without flower strips. For two years, the abundance of wild bees was recorded around each of these thirty fields. The results showed that a simple comparison of data sampled from specific sites could lead to the conclusion that conventional fields with flower strips could attract significantly more bees than organic fields, but that’s not all.
“When we looked closer, it didn’t give us the full picture because it didn’t take into account that flower strips only cover about 5% of conventional fields which overall have far fewer bees than organic farmland,” says Professor Teja Tscharntke, Department of Agroecology at the University of Göttingen. Dr Péter Batáry, group leader at the Biological Research Center in Vácrátót, Hungary, continues: “In short, organic farming, which generally has more wild plants than conventional fields, is actually more efficient than fields. conventional with flower strips to promote bees. . »
The missing piece of the puzzle is the fact that grain fields under organic farming yield only half of the harvest from conventional farming. When taking into account the loss of wheat yield, one would have to compare an area of ten hectares of organic agricultural land to five hectares of conventional agricultural land plus five hectares of flower strips, which would lead to 3.5 times more bees for the same yield. In this scenario, organic farming would not be the best way to support wild bees.
“These data and considerations show that different benchmarks and criteria need to be taken into account when evaluating agri-environmental measures. Only when we take into account the area as well as the yield as well as the type of agriculture can we arrive at a balanced understanding of the ecological and economic effectiveness of environmental measures,” explain the authors.
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