Biodiversity benefits beneficial insects

Feb 02, 2024

Beneficial insects are the Field Heroes who work to control pest populations on the farm, but they can only live where there is suitable habitat. That’s one of the reasons why biodiversity is an important factor for farmers to consider when managing their land. 

“Biodiversity refers to everything living within an area and that includes animals, plants, fungi and bacteria,” explains Nevin Rosaasen, Sustainability and Government Relations Lead, Alberta 

Pulse Growers. “Just as biodiversity is really important in our soils and forests, insect biodiversity is also very important when it comes to broadacre agriculture, specifically in western Canada.” 

Wetlands, woodlots, fencelines and stone piles are examples of habitats and overwintering sites for beneficial insects, including pollinators that bring yield benefits to crops like canola. On farms where field size is very large, there are minimal areas of undisturbed land or vegetation. 

On episode 22 of the Pests & Predators podcast, Rosaasen discusses areas of concern when it comes to biodiversity in agriculture and provides insights into how farmers can assess and improve ecosystem health. 

“In this day and age with the price of land, the economic rule is that any time you can gain a couple of acres, it’s to your benefit,” Rosaasen explains. “We’re looking at more and more programs that are coming out to pay farmers to keep some wetlands and preserve some grasslands, but we’re just scratching the surface on understanding this whole biodiversity equation.” 

When farmers consider adding workable acres or removing obstacles, they should consider the ecosystem loss in addition to the efficiency gain. Draining a slough, tearing out a shelterbelt or fenceline or even burying an old stone pile remove areas that are full of beneficial insect life. 

Rosaasen notes that there is no return-on-investment calculation for maintaining or enhancing biodiversity, making the equation a difficult one for farmers to rationalize. Areas that host pollinators, parasitoids and predators can also host crop pests, which is an area of concern that needs more research. While there is no easy or perfect answer because every farm and field situation is different, Rosaasen recommends doing a partial budget to analyze field efficiency increases and be mindful of biodiversity. 

“We need to recognize that there’s more to learn, and certainly it’s much harder to replace a wetland than to remove one”, says Rosaasen. 

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