A review paper published this month (Mar 2011) in the American Journal of Botany has revealed that scientific evidence published over the past two decades provides “overwhelming support … that … species richness increases the efficiency by which plants … assimilate … resources and convert these into standing biomass”. The ecological benefits of species diversity are particularly pertinent for agro-ecosystems where growing diverse polycultures can increase productivity and enable farmers to reduce their reliance on inorganic agro-chemicals. A diverse polyculture can capture nutrients more efficiently and produce higher biomass yields than monocultures, and by providing a habitat that encourages natural enemies of pests can suffer less from insect pest attacks.
The Organic Research Centre’s Legume LINK project is examining the role that plant species diversity can play in pasture leys, and work in the Wheat Breeding LINK and SOLIBAM projects is researching the effect of crop genetic diversity on agro-ecosystems.
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