NSP - Case studies

FAO is compiling case studies (under COP programme element 2.1), in a response to the call made by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (decision V/5), to highlight the ecological function provided by the soil biota, specifying the roles of various micro-, meso- and macro-biota (including roots, ecosystem engineers, litter transformers, phytophages and parasites, micro-predators and microflora) and their effects under different agricultural systems and practices (e.g. effects on soil function, biodiversity and plant production), including:

  • especially nutrient cycling (e.g. microorganisms and plant roots, some soil and litter feeding invertebrates) and crop productivity (e.g. symbiotic relationships with plants and their roots of rhizobia, mycorrhizae, actinomycetes and diazotrophic bacteria); but also,
  • decomposition of organic matter (e.g. saprophytic and litter feeding invertebrates (detritivores), fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and other microorganisms) and/or carbon sequestration (e.g effects of microorganisms and plant roots); and/or,
  • hydrological cycling, water regulation and availability (e.g. effects of bioturbating invertebrates and plant roots); and/or
  • maintaining or enhancing soil structure (e.g. effect of bioturbating invertebrates and plant roots, mycorrhizae and some other microorganisms on soil aggregation and porosity; and/or,
  • suppression of pests, parasites and diseases (e.g. plants, mycorrhizae and other fungi, nematodes, bacteria and other microorganisms, collembola, earthworms, various predators); and/or,
  • soil detoxification (especially microorganisms); and/or,
  • as sources of food and medicines (e.g. plant roots, insects such as crickets, beetle larvae, ants, termites, earthworms, vertebrates, microorganisms and their by-products).  

Case studies may include, examples of :

  1. the role(s) or functions of diverse>soil organisms and associated biological processes in creating, regulating and maintaining soil fertility and productivity with specific attention to (i) the association among various dimensions of agricultural biodiversity (e.g. among different soil biota and between soil biota and plant roots) and (ii) to local knowledge and management practices;
  2. the management of soil organisms in agroecosystems to improve agricultural productivity through: (i) direct interventions (e.g. inoculation of seeds or roots with rhizobia, mycorrhizae, fungi and rhizobacteria for enhanced soil fertility; inoculation of soil or the environment with biocontrol agents, pest or disease antagonists or beneficial fauna) and (ii) indirect practices (e.g. organic inputs, tillage, fertilisers, irrigation, green manures, liming, cropping system design and management) and (iii) modern techniques for genetic control of soil function (e.g. by manipulating resistance to disease, residue and rhizosphere quality);
  3. the negative impacts of certain agricultural practices (e.g. misuse or overuse of tillage, organic and inorganic fertilisers, pesticides, irrigation or flooding) in terms of loss of soil biodiversity, soil and environmental degradation (i.e., depletion or loss of soil fertility and its physical and biological components, contamination of surface and ground water) and declining land productivity with specific attention to ecosystems under change (i.e. through intensification);
  4. how biological management of soil fertility can be integrated profitably into the rest of the farming enterprise (including cost/benefit analysis);
  5. how biological management techniques can serve to (i) conserve biologically important populations and species and/or (ii) restore degraded ecosystems;
  6. the use of participatory processes to promote the assessment, management and conservation of soil biodiversity, illustrating the role of various stakeholders, including the involvement of the private sector.

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