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Functional Biodiversity


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Wolfe, Martin (2001) Functional Biodiversity. Elm Farm Research Centre Bulletin (56), pp. 6-7.

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Modern conventional agriculture is characterized by monocultures. These are less productive in terms of biomass than natural plant communities, which are usually complex mixtures of species and varieties, and they also require more inputs. A central question for organic agriculture is therefore how far we can move from monocultural to polycultural systems in order to benefit from this biodiversity without loss of yield. Rotations are one way of increasing biodiversity, but other components of the EFRC research programme are relevant:
breeding programmes for wheat and kale aimed at producing crop populations rather than pure lines; variety and species mixtures, especially for cereals;
intercropping legumes with a vegetable rotation (companion cropping) or cereals (bi-cropping), in order to bring the fertility-building and cropping phases of the rotation into the same part of the sequence;
a biodiversity project looking at the farmed and non-farmed areas of organic and conventional farms;
N, P and K budgeting as a means of designing rotations and intercropping systems;
semiochemicals: the natural signalling processes between crops, pests and predators.
The best illustration of functional biodiversity is perhaps in the agroforestry demonstration plots, where trees, cropping and livestock are combined.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:biodiversity, intercropping, companion cropping, polyculture
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Crop combinations and interactions
Knowledge management > Education, extension and communication
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Research affiliation: UK > Organic Research Centre (ORC) - Elm Farm
Deposited By: Powell, Ms Jane
ID Code:10832
Deposited On:19 Jun 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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