Resolution of the international research and practice conference
“Polycultures and Permaculture”
(30.01–08.02.2020. Warsaw, Poland; Kyiv, Ukraine; Davis, USA)
Policy recommendations to promote biodiversity-based agriculture
Agricultural systems cover approximately 40% of the land surface of the Earth and thus have a significant biospheric impact (Lescourret, Magda et al., 2015). This impact will only increase as the population grows by an additional two billion by 2050 and requires 30% more food production globally than is produced at present (Wezel et al., 2014). Ideally, these challenges would be met through the sustainable intensification of agriculture.
Notwithstanding the gains of contemporary industrial agriculture, there have also been numerous drawbacks due to dependence on intensive management and on the availability of scarce and non-renewable resources, and consequently their negative impact on ecosystems (Altieri et al., 1983; Duru et al., 2015; Raghavan et al., 2016). Agriculture sector is one of the biggest greenhouse gases emitters (from 10 to 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and about 9% in the USA (Eurostat, 2015; USEPA, 2015)). Modern industrial agriculture results in the simplification of the structure of the environment, replacing diversity with a small number of varieties for its major crops with declining species richness, and decreasing trait and functional diversity in general, thus increasing the vulnerability associated with genetic uniformity (Altieri, 1999). In this sense it is high risk.
Progress towards a more low-risk agriculture is required (Altieri et al., 1983), that will be compatible with ecosystem preservation (halting the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems) and resistance to climate change (Lescourret, Dutoit et al., 2015; Wezel et al., 2014). This is emphasized in Europe’s common agricultural policy (CAP), in Biodiversity Action Plan for Agriculture, and in the United Nations Report on agroecology and the right to food (De Schutter, 2014; European Commission, 2001; Grant, 1997).
Diversified agricultural practices can provide numerous ecosystem services — the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions — such as increased biodiversity, improved control of pests, diseases and weeds, better and more stable soil health, reduced soil erosion, improved water and nutrient management and increased resilience of the agroecosystem (Rosa-Schleich et al., 2019). Even in intensified farming, most (potential) pests are not controlled by pesticides but natural predators, and wild pollinators are crucial for crop yield, what becomes increasingly important in view of observed honeybee decline and promoted cultivation of pollinator-dependent biofuel crops (Breeze, 2014; Tscharntke et al., 2005).
No till perennial agriculture systems can serve as an efficient CO2 sinks capable of conserving up to 0.5–1.5*109 tons of C annually on a global scale (Hajjar et al., 2008). In addition, polyculture systems – simultaneous cultivation of several crops in the same space – produce on average 38% more gross energy and 33% more gross incomes whilst using 23% less land (Smith et al., 2017).
Implementation of agrobiodiversity protection measures capable to increase food and biofuel production to meet the needs of increasing human population with the fossil fuel decline and in line with nature protection and restoration under increased anthropogenic pressure and the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change requires intersectoral (government, scientists, farmers, NGOs) and international cooperation.
We defined the following key points summarizing recent findings and successful approaches to guide decision makers:
Natural reserves and natural parks must be buffered by extensively used agricultural lands employing measures to meet special requirements of naturally occurring, in particular endangered species, including scientifically defined minimum size of habitat (Zander and Kächele, 1999).
Minimum proportion of natural and semi-natural habitats (apart from subsidiary crops) is required for biodiversity conservation and provisioning of ecosystem services. It is defined as 5% in research literature (Tscharntke et al., 2005), as well as in EU Common Agriculture Policy as the size of Ecological Focus Areas) and must be ensured by identifying and protecting biodiversity hotspots and converting degraded and low productivity agricultural lands into semi natural habitats. It should account for intensity of agriculture production, in particular the percentage of aggregated monoculture lands (e.g. enhanced need for pollination and biocontrol services, preventing leakage of agricultural chemicals, inadequate provisioning of forage and habitat for wildlife).
Increasing landscape connectivity via protecting and establishing of biocorridors (multifunctional windbreaks and hedgerows, set aside land, road verges, riparian buffer zones (recommended width range from 3 m (nutrient filter) to 24 m (preserving high floral diversity) and up to 144 m (preserving bird diversity) (Lind et al., 2019)) and small heterogeneous “stepping stone” habitats for parasitoids and other small useful insects and spiders which profit from locally good conditions (including solitary trees, tree shrub and grassland patches with area of tens of square meters scattered among the fields (Knapp and Řezáč, 2015)). Since biocorridors must occupy a significant proportion of agriculture lands, their management must be compatible with extensive perennial agriculture production (diversified and bioenergy forestry, extensive organic horticulture, forest farming, and silvopasture systems). Efficient biocorridors require specific management (minimum width, fencing, animal passages for safe road crossing etc.), as well as consideration of both positive and negative effects of spillovers between natural and agricultural ecosystems.
Ensuring equal distribution of natural and semi-natural habitats rather than their net area (Pe'er et al., 2014).
See supporting video “Mosaic landscape”
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Smith, A.C., Harrison, P.A., Pérez Soba, M., Archaux, F., Blicharska, M., Egoh, B.N., Erős, T., Fabrega Domenech, N., György, ÁI., Haines-Young, R., Li, S., Lommelen, E., Meiresonne, L., Miguel Ayala, L., Mononen, L., Simpson, G., Stange, E., Turkelboom, F., Uiterwijk, M., Veerkamp, C.J., Wyllie de Echeverria, V., 2017. How natural capital delivers ecosystem services: A typology derived from a systematic review. Ecosystem Services. 26, Part A, 111–126.
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Dr. Melissa Vogt, Editor of ‘Sustainability Certification Schemes in the Agricultural and Natural Resource Sectors’, Independent researcher, Australia
Point 5 about subsidies should: “can include also payment for already established ecosystems and not only newly developing”. It could be included in the point about result versus action orientated. 1a can include ‘enhancing structural and successional ‘SYSTEM’ and landscape heterogeneity and connectivity.
Dr. Hans R Herren, President, Millennium Institute (Washington DC) and Biovison Foundation (Zurich, Switzerland), United States
Need for 30% more food. We do produce enough on a global scale, but what is needed now is to produce more locally where there is a deficit, Africa in particular, while less and better quality needs to be produced in EU and North America. There is enough evidence that this can be done with agroecological practices.
I am not supportive of the term "Sustainable Intensification", why not just use Agroecology or Ecological / Eco-functional Intensification. Note also that these terms are very different and not interchangeable. I suggest to use Agroecology, which is well defined, and encompasses all aspects from production to consumption.
 Subsidiary crop — crop which is sown primarily for their ecological function, that do not necessarily provide any commercial harvest (such as green manure, cover crops, catch crops etc.).
 Though subsidiary crops and short-rotation coppice are presently permitted measures for the Ecological Focus Areas, they are less efficient in provisioning benefits for biodiversity that natural vegetation.