Organic farms boast 50 per cent more wildlife
ORGANIC farms support more plant, animal and insect species than conventional farms, scientists from Oxford University have found.
Researchers who looked at data spanning 30 years said the number of different pollinator species such as bees were 50 per cent higher on organic farms.
“Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the study.
“Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialised nations.”
However, the university said it was important to note the study only looked at ‘species richness’.
“Species richness tells us how many different species there are but does not say anything about the total number of organisms,” added Mr Tuck.
“There are many ways to study biodiversity and species richness is easy to measure, providing a useful starting point. Broadly speaking, high species richness usually indicates a variety of species with different functions. Taking the example of bees, species richness would tell us how many different species of bee were on each farm but not the total number of bees.”
The study, published this week in the Journal of Applied Ecology, looked at data from 94 previous studies covering 184 farm sites dating back to 1989. The researchers re-analysed the data using satellite imagery to estimate the land use in the landscape surrounding each farm site to see if this had an impact on species richness.
The study was carried out by scientists at Oxford University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, and partly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Soil Association policy officer Louise Payton said: “We are suffering dramatic losses of wildlife all over the world so to know that organic farms have on average a third more species shows just how great a difference you can make by supporting organic agriculture and buying organic food.
“Our food systems are being threatened by the declines of bees and other pollinators - necessary for a third of the food that we eat. This research shows there is a clear solution for pollinators with a known outcome – support organic farming and we can have 50 per cent more species of pollinators in our countryside.”
However, Ms Payton said UK organic producers currently received the lowest CAP payments across the EU and urged the Government to ‘redress this balance’.