According to Horizon, the EU’s research and innovation magazine, boosting biodiversity on farms is crucial to make them more resilient to climate change and protect future food security. Researchers suggest however it will not happen without change across the food supply chain from seed production to consumer.
Research suggests the farmers most interested in promoting biodiversity tend to be highly-educated organic farmers – often women. This is related closely to the work of the SEED project, which assessed qualification needs and the importance of improving farming qualifications and innovation and digitalisation in farming practices.
There are many possible solutions to increase plant diversity on farms, these include planting different crops, or different varieties of the same crop, combining trees, crops and livestock on the same farm. However these are not often used by farmers, despite growing awareness of the economic and environmental benefits diversity offers.
Soil health is boosted by crop rotation, or planting different crops together on the same land. Farms also need to become less reliant on chemical fertilisers. Having a mixture of plant structures on farms – trees, bushes, hedgerows, crops gives greater diversity. Diversity in farming also provides a buffer against pests. Some plants can be used to attract pests away from food crops, and diversity provides habitats for their natural enemies.
The EU has responded to these needs under Cluster 6 of the Horizon Europe funding programme, which addresses Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment. It aims to reduce environmental degradation and tackle the decline in biodiversity on land, waters and oceans, through transformative change including digitalisation.
The programme deals with natural resources, food security, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, food systems, circular economy, sustainable bioeconomy and forestry.