Agriculture and biological diversity (or short: biodiversity) belong together, even though it does not seem so at first glance. Usually, farmland gives the impression of being covered with only one crop, namely the one which is grown there. However, appearances can be deceiving, which becomes quite apparent at second glance. Today’s agriculture has developed over the millennia by carefully selecting and breeding “useful” plants. Many new crop varieties developed from the original wild forms. With the discovery of new territories and continents, new species reached our home environment and spread further through travel and trade. This dissemination does not only happen with desired newcomers, but was and is still true for undesired species as well. The diversity of cultivated plants and the organisms associated with them grow and live in fields, meadows and pastures, as well as in adjacent strips of land such as hedges and field margins. The JKI activities are geared to recording, preserving and expanding the diversity in the fields as well as in adjacent structures.
At the JKI, we strive not only to secure crop diversity per se for the future. We are also working on the improvement of farming techniques and on an environmentally friendly practice in plant protection. A main concern is to protect diversity in the natural habitats directly. In the field of policy consulting, we develop recommendations on how biodiversity can be improved by targeted agro-environment measures (greening). To do this, we conduct comparative field trials and evaluate the effects of the proposed measures.
Agro-biodiversity is at the heart of research on diversity in agriculture at the JKI. It comprises not only the cultivated species that humans have directly selected and purposefully cultivated, but also associated animals, plants, micro-organisms and their cohabitation. These include wild herbs, useful and harmful insects, fungi and bacteria, vertebrates (mice, birds) and many more.
The industrialization of agriculture in the past has partly resulted in an impoverishment of biodiversity. And yet it is wrong to assume that this must be necessarily so. Today it is a primary objective of a sustainable cultivation of crops to preserve and enhance biodiversity. This is based on the knowledge that sustainable crop production systems are more resilient against stress, for instance, caused by diseases or pests. Some agricultural systems created by humans, such as a meadow orchards (in German: Streuobstwiese) or mountain meadows, may be significantly richer in species than a potential natural eco-system in the same place.
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