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May 19, 2017 << back >>

Increasing Productivity While Conserving Biodiversity

Digital Farming: for us this means providing smart tools to support farmers in making the best choices in their daily work. New solutions not only enhance yields, they can also contribute to biodiversity conservation on both a local and international scale. In our article series entitled “Digital Farming and Environmental Responsibility,” this topic is exactly what we want to discuss. First up: how can smart farming solutions help conserve biodiversity?

The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on May 22. For us, it is a good time to consider what we can contribute. Why? Because, simply put, biodiversity is life on earth – ours and that of every plant and creature on this planet. A rich and diverse natural world provides us with food and is the basis for many economic activities, including agriculture. Without fertile soils, healthy plants, and pollinators, our supermarkets would have a lot less produce. Thus, biodiversity helps us survive and is a good reason for us to think about its conservation on a daily basis.

Caring for Ecosystems

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity gives the following definition: “Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part.” More and more farmers are realizing the benefits of biodiversity for their productivity, and striving to conserve it. How? Every farm is part of a greater landscape ecosystem. All its parts – soil, water, animals, and crops – play an important role and interact with each other. Changes in this delicate puzzle, through management approaches within fields, have far-reaching effects. As a result, farmers need to consider the implications of their management decisions very carefully. “Farmers are the stewards of their land,” says Tobias Menne, Head of Digital Farming at Bayer. “They are conserving the land they are living off. And we want to support them in making the right decisions to sustain their production base for future generations.”

Smart Decisions through Precise Technology

Digital Farming solutions are intended to result in higher yields while using fewer resources and also supporting biodiversity. One example is precision spraying tools that use satellite images to evaluate exactly how much plant protection product is needed in specific field zones, which is determined based on biomass measurements. But satellite images have much more to offer: they help identify areas that are less productive and more environmentally sensitive. Farmers can use this information to create habitats within fields for wildlife and for regenerating ecosystem services, like water regulation or soil erosion control, and thus enhance productivity and biodiversity alike. Another example is holistic analysis solutions that combine weather and environmental data to assess the risk of pests and diseases for special crops in individual fields so that only those at risk have to be treated for each particular threat.

Further, technological advances like auto-steering or GPS-controlled tractors improve farmers’ precision in planting and harvesting crops, as well as in applying fertilizer. By accessing these technologies, farmers can be more precise in their practices and are able to use just the right amount of product at the right time in the right spots. This way, they consume fewer resources such as fuel, plant protection product, and fertilizer, and less of it finds its way into soil and water due to runoff from the fields. This not only benefits the farmer locally, who can spend less on these products, while treating his field effectively – at an international level it has been shown that a lot of land can be spared to support other land needs, including the conservation of biodiversity.