Crop and crop-associated biodiversity is an intrinsic and important part of agricultural ecosystems. Together with crops and livestock that are intentionally introduced and maintained by the farmer, there are other resources, such as soil flora and fauna, herbivores, carnivores, decomposers or other species that already exist in, or colonise the agro-ecosystem, that are also part of agricultural biodiversity, and which contribute to a functioning agro-ecosystem.
Crop and crop-associated biodiversity benefits the ecosystems by providing nutrient cycling, pest and disease regulation, pollination, and other wider ecological services. For example, a well-managed biodiversity contributes to maintain water quality, enhance waste removal, soil moisture retention with reduction of runoff and control water infiltration and erosion. Other crop-associated biodiversity, such as pests, diseases, and competitors, is not so beneficial and requires wise management.
Because of the complex relationships that exist among systems and species in an ecosystem, crop associated biodiversity plays an important role in the in situ conservation of plant genetic resources, while its management can contribute to the sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources. These considerations are part of the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and in particular contribute towards the implementation of the priority areas under Group 1 (in situ conservation and development) and Group 3 (utilization of plant genetic resources).
Because of systemic interactions, AGP promotes the management of crop and crop associated biodiversity through an ecosystem approach, for sustainable agriculture and improved livelihoods.
- Diagram of components of crop and cop-associated biodiversity
- Beyond the Gene Horizon: Sustaining agricultural productivity and enhancing livelihoods through optimization of crop and crop-associated biodiversity with emphasis on semi-arid tropical ecosystems