While most people have heard about biodiversity and its importance, fewer people are aware of the importance of agrobiodiversity. The decrease in agrobiodiversity has had a detrimental impact on the food we consume and human and plant health. This article will discuss agrobiodiversity, what it entails, its importance, and the many benefits that it provides.
What Is Agrobiodiversity?
Agricultural biodiversity or agrobiodiversity consists of all the aspects of biodiversity that relate to agriculture and food. These include plant and animal genetic resources, including crops, pastures, trees, wild plants, ornamental plants, medicinal plants, domesticated animals, wild animals, fish and aquatic organisms, pollinating insects, microbes, and fungi.
Thus, agrobiodiversity is the interaction of genetic resources, the environment, and the systems and practices used by farmers and agriculture workers to manage them. Both natural selection and human intervention are included in this.
The Importance of Agrobiodiversity
Agrobiodiversity includes economic, environmental, and socio-cultural aspects and is essential to food and livestock security. Managing this includes domesticating crops and animals and increasing productivity despite the many changes that take place. It is the basis of agriculture and has allowed the farming system to evolve over thousands of years.
It's important to note that one of the reasons agrobiodiversity is so important is the close relationship between agriculture and biodiversity. Both contribute to each other. Biodiversity is essential for agriculture and agriculture can sustain biodiversity when practiced sustainably with conservation in mind. Because of this, sustainable agriculture both benefits from and promotes biodiversity.
In addition to agrobiodiversity being the origin of our farming practices, it’s essential for adaptability. The genetic diversity of plants and animals allows them to adapt to the ever-changing and evolving environment around them. For example, plants and crops can resist disease, pests, changing weather, etc. Thus, genetic diversity and agrobiodiversity are essential for our survival.
Maintaining Soil Health
Aggressive farming has resulted in devastating amounts of soil erosion. This is especially harmful because of how slowly soil is formed. Soil is being lost up to 40 times faster than it is being formed, and the world’s topsoil could be severely damaged and unproductive within 60 years if it is lost at this rate. One-third of global arable land has disappeared, and human beings must invest in maintaining soil health. Since agrobiodiversity minimises soil erosion, it’s important to preserve it.
Availability of Food and Raw Materials
Agrobiodiversity is responsible for human beings having access to food and raw materials. Materials like cotton, wood, and fuel allow us to earn livelihoods, grow food and provide shelter for ourselves. Cotton allows us to make clothing, and wood can be used for fires and creating homes, whilst various plants and roots can be used for medicinal purposes. Crops are used as sustenance, as are animals. Animal byproducts also serve to fulfil our needs.
Organic Pest and Disease Control
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that up to 40% of global crop production is destroyed by pests every year. Additionally, insects and plant diseases cost the global economy $70 billion and $220 billion, respectively. Climate change is making this issue significantly worse, resulting in farmers relying on pesticides and fertilisers that can be harmful and result in more damage. Agrobiodiversity and the different organisms in the soil can help with this by combating the spread of disease, acting as natural fertiliser, and ensuring that the soil is healthy and nutrient rich.
Without agrobiodiversity, pollination would be in jeopardy. Bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps make up the pollinators that are essential for farmland. Many plants only produce seeds when pollinated because of the need to move the pollen from anthers to the stigmas, and pollinators are critical for this purpose.
The global population is ever-increasing and is set to exceed 9 billion by 2050. To meet demand, global food production must increase by 70%. Agrobiodiversity is essential for this since genetic diversity can improve production capacity and yield. This can be a gamechanger in the global food security crisis and is one of the most significant benefits of agricultural biodiversity.
Food security is also dependent on agrobiodiversity because it's so essential for the provision of food. It’s also critical for the provision of a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet since it provides human beings with diverse foods that can provide adequate nutrients and aid our health.
Agrobiodiversity is severely lacking in our current food system. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, over 40% of the world’s plant-based calories come from only three staple crops – maize, wheat, and rice. Despite approximately 7000 species of plants being cultivated for food, we only grow 170 crops commercially. Of these, only 30 are depended on to provide us with the daily nutrients and calories we need.
The benefits of agrobiodiversity also include water conservation. Sustaining biodiversity and reducing water pollution and waste is essential since agriculture is responsible for 70% of global freshwater use. Since agrobiodiversity is useful for water quantity and quality, it’s regarded as extremely important for maintaining base flow and regulating flooding.
Fighting Climate Change
Climate change has become an increasingly relevant topic, especially as it pertains to agriculture. Crop yields and food production are suffering because of climate change, with the world seeing extreme temperature changes and weather conditions. Agrobiodiversity can help fight climate change and reduce the environmental footprint that conventional farming leaves behind. By using less fertiliser and pesticides, the world can benefit from reduced water pollution, less greenhouse gas emissions and much more.
Find Agricultural Jobs That Make a Difference
Agriculture and the jobs within it can make a difference and impact the world significantly. From tackling food security to ensuring conservation, plenty of agricultural jobs deal with agrobiodiversity and sustainable farming. If you’re interested in these jobs, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help. Our expert recruiters can help you find the perfect agricultural job or the perfect candidate for a vacancy at your organisation.
Check out our job portal for agricultural jobs that may interest you, or register with us for help from our recruitment experts. If you’re a company looking to hire someone with exceptional skills, we can help with our comprehensive client services. Reach out to us here, and we’ll help you fill any open position you may have.