Strategies for Enhancing Plant Diversity

As described, increasing above-ground biodiversity will enhance the natural defenses of your farming system. Use as many of these tools as possible to design a diverse landscape:

  • Diversify enterprises by including more species of crops and livestock.
  • Use legume-based crop rotations and mixed pastures.
  • Intercrop or strip-crop annual crops where feasible.
  • Mix varieties of the same crop.
  • Use varieties that carry many genes — rather than just one or two — for tolerating a particular insect or disease.
  • Emphasize open-pollinated crops over hybrids for their adaptability to local environments and greater genetic diversity.
  • Grow cover crops in orchards, vineyards and crop fields.
  • Leave strips of wild vegetation at field edges.
  • Provide corridors for wildlife and beneficial insects.
  • Practice agroforestry, combining trees or shrubs with crops or livestock to improve habitat continuity for natural enemies.
  • Plant microclimate-modifying trees and native plants as windbreaks or hedgerows.
  • Provide a source of water for birds and insects.
  • Leave areas of the farm untouched as habitat for plant and animal diversity.

As you work toward improved soil health and pest management, don’t concentrate on any one strategy to the exclusion of others. Instead, combine as many strategies as make sense on your farm. Nationwide, producers are finding that the triple strategies of good crop rotations, reduced tillage and routine use of cover crops impart many benefits. Adding other strategies — such as animal manures and composts, improved nutrient management and compaction-minimizing techniques — provides even more.