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The benefits of organic farming to biodiversity in agricultural landscapes continue to be hotly debated, emphasizing the importance of precisely quantifying the effect of organic vs. conventional farming. We conducted an updated hierarchical meta-analysis of studies that compared biodiversity under organic and conventional farming methods, measured as species richness. We calculated effect sizes for 184 observations garnered from 94 studies, and for each study, we obtained three standardized measures reflecting land-use intensity. We investigated the stability of effect sizes through time, publication bias due to the ‘file drawer’ problem, and consider whether the current literature is representative of global organic farming patterns. On average, organic farming increased species richness by about 30%. This result has been robust over the last 30 years of published studies and shows no sign of diminishing. Organic farming had a greater effect on biodiversity as the percentage of the landscape consisting of arable fields increased, that is, it is higher in intensively farmed regions. The average effect size and the response to agricultural intensification depend on taxonomic group, functional group and crop type. There is some evidence for publication bias in the literature; however, our results are robust to its impact. Current studies are heavily biased towards northern and western Europe and North America, while other regions with large areas of organic farming remain poorly investigated. Synthesis and applications. Our analysis affirms that organic farming has large positive effects on biodiversity compared with conventional farming, but that the effect size varies with the organism group and crop studied, and is greater in landscapes with higher land-use intensity. Decisions about where to site organic farms to maximize biodiversity will, however, depend on the costs as well as the potential benefits. Current studies have been heavily biased towards agricultural systems in the developed world. We recommend that future studies pay greater attention to other regions, in particular, areas with tropical, subtropical and Mediterranean climates, in which very few studies have been conducted.
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Land-use intensity and the effects of organic farming
on biodiversity: a hierarchical meta-analysis
Sean L. Tuck
*, Camilla Winqvist
avia Mota
, Johan Ahnstr
Lindsay A. Turnbull
and Janne Bengtsson
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3RB, UK;
Section for Landscape and Soil Ecology,
Department of Ecology, SLU, Box 7044, Uppsala S-750 07, Sweden; and
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and
Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zurich 8057, Switzerland
1. The benefits of organic farming to biodiversity in agricultural landscapes continue to be
hotly debated, emphasizing the importance of precisely quan tifying the effect of organic vs.
conventional farming.
2. We conducted an updated hierarchical meta-analysis of studies that compared biodiversity
under organic and conventional farming methods, measured as species richness. We calcu-
lated effect sizes for 184 observations garnered from 94 studies, and for each study, we
obtained three standardized measures reflecting land-use intensity. We invest igated the stabil-
ity of effect sizes through time, publication bias due to the ‘file drawer’ problem, and consider
whether the current literature is representative of global organic farming patterns.
3. On average, organic farming increased species richness by about 30%. This result has been
robust over the last 30 years of published studies and shows no sign of diminishing.
4. Organic farming had a greater effect on biodiversity as the percentage of the landscape
consisting of arable fields increased, that is, it is higher in intensively farmed regions. The
average effect size and the response to agricultural intensification depend on taxonomic
group, functional group and crop type.
5. There is some evidence for publication bias in the literature; however, our results are
robust to its impact. Current studies are heavily biased towards northern and western Euro pe
and North America, while other regions with large areas of organic farming remain poorly
6. Synthesis and applications. Our analysis affirms that organ ic farming has large positive
effects on biodiversity compared with conventional farming, but that the effect size varies
with the organism group and crop studied, and is greater in landscapes with higher land-use
intensity. Decisions about where to site organic farms to maximize biod iversity will, however,
depend on the costs as well as the potential benefits. Current studies have been heavily biased
towards agricultural systems in the developed world. We recommend that future studies pay
greater attention to other regions, in particular, areas with tropical, subtropical and Mediter-
ranean climates, in which very few studies have been conducted.
Key-words: agricultural management, diversity, farming systems, landscape complexity, spe-
cies richness
Organic farming, in which insecticides, herbicides and
inorganic fertilizers are entirely or largely avoided, is gen-
erally thought to be more environmentally benign than its
conventional farming cousin. However, the overall bene-
fits of organic farming for biodiversity, the environment
in general, human health and food security have been
intensely debated in recent years (Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om &
Weibull 2005; Hole et al. 2005; Badgley et al. 2007; Mon-
delaers, Aertsens & Huylenbroeck 2009; Dobermann
*Correspondence author. E-mail:
These authors equally contributed to this work.
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Journal of Applied Ecology 2014, 51, 746–755 doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12219
2012; Reganold 2012; Tuomisto et al. 2012; Winqvist,
om & Bengtsson 2012; Gabriel et al. 2013). The
debate turns on whether or not the decreased yields from
organic farms negate any local benefits, for example, to
biodiversity, that such methods deliver (Seufert, Rama-
nkutty & Foley 2012; but see Badgley et al. 2007). The
logic of this argument runs as follows: lower yields push
up food prices, and as a consequence, more wild or mar-
ginal land is brought into agricultural production. This
wild land is likely to have supported even higher biodiver-
sity than the organic farm; hence, begging the question, is
there an overall cost of organic farming to biodiversity?
Organic farming provides shared benefits to both
humans and wildlife, while conventional farming, at least
in the short term, maximizes yields thus potentially
sparing wild lands elsewhere therefore this argument is
often naively framed as ‘land sharing’ vs. ‘land sparing’
(Green et al. 2005; Vandermeer & Perfecto 2007; Fischer
et al. 2008; Phalan et al. 2011; Tscharntke et al. 2012;
Gabriel et al. 2013) although recently the debate has
moved away from such overly simplistic dichotomies. For
example, it has been argued that decisions about land
sparing vs. sharing are contingent on the landscape and
potential yields (Hodgson et al. 2010; Tscharntke et al.
2012; Gabriel et al. 2013). It is also clear that some
organisms are necessary on the farm to support essential
ecosystem services, for example, pollination and pest con-
trol, which contribute to yield. Therefore, species in farm-
land cannot be entirely sacrificed in order to preserve
biodiversity elsewhere. In addition, some species, particu-
larly in Europe where farming has been an integral part
of the landscape for thousands of years, thrive in exten-
sively managed farmland and are clearly threatened by
agricultural intensification (Chamberlain et al. 2000).
These species are an integral part of the European cul-
tural landscape, and their loss has provoked both public
and political outcry, leading the British Government, for
example, to pledge to reverse such declines by 2020. Thus,
organic farming, which generally increases both crop and
landscape heterogeneity, may be one component of a
land-sharing strategy, delivering wider ecosystem services
including amenity and conservation of culturally impor-
tant species (Vandermeer & Perfecto 2007; Gabriel et al.
2013). In this light, quantifying the precise benefits deliv-
ered by organic farming is essential.
While there is a general consensus that organic farming
increases biodiversity when compared to conventional
agriculture, the magnitude of this effect seems to vary
greatly, particularly among organism groups and across
landscapes (Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om & Weibull 2005; Bat
et al. 2011; Winqvist, Ahnstr
om & Bengtsson 2012). Ben-
gtsson, Ahnstr
om and Weibull (2005) suggested that the
effects of organic farming on biodiversity were likely to
be greatest in intensively managed agricultural landscapes,
while Tscharntke et al. (2005) argued that agrienviron-
ment schemes would have larger effects in simple than in
complex landscapes. Some of these predictions have been
borne out by individual studies (Rundl
of & Smith 2006;
of, Bengtsson & Smith 2008; Brittain et al. 2010;
otter et al. 2010; Bat
ary et al. 2011; Fischer et al.
2011; Flohre et al. 2011; Winqvist, Ahnstr
om & Bengts-
son 2012) and by meta-analysis in which landscapes were
classified as either simple or complex (Bat
ary et al. 2011).
However, different studies have defined ‘simple’ and ‘com-
plex’ in different ways, whereas it would be preferable to
have some more objective, continuous measurement of
land-use intensity with which to test these ideas more
While there have been previous meta-analyses compar-
ing conventional vs. organic farming and their biodiver-
sity and environmental impacts (Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om &
Weibull 2005; Bat
ary et al. 2011; Seufert, Ramankutty &
Foley 2012; Tuomisto et al. 2012), we believe that a new
analysis is still timely. First, previous meta-analyses have
not taken account of the hierarchical structure of the
data; secondly, a large number of new studies have been
published in recent years; and thirdly, we include here
three objective and standardized measures of land-use
intensity and landscape complexity measured on a contin-
uous scale, newly obtained for each of the studies. Using
an extended data set compared with Bengtsson, Ahnstr
and Weibull (2005), we can therefore ask the following
questions: (i) By how much does organic farming increase
biodiversity compared with conventional agriculture? (ii)
Do the effects of organic farming depend on the organism
or functional group, land-use intensity and structure, and
crop type? (iii) Has the reported effect size of organic
farming on biodiversity decreased or remained stable over
time? (iv) Is there evidence for publication bias in the lit-
erature, either because studies with negligible or negative
effects of organic farming remain unpublished or because
the present studies of organic farming, which are often
performed in Europe or the US (Bat
ary et al. 2011; Winq-
vist, Ahnstr
om & Bengtsson 2012), are unrepresentative
of the crops and regions in which organic farming is con-
ducted globally?
Materials and methods
We started with the species richness data set published in 2005 by
Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om and Weibull, which included 27 studies
published before December 2002. We expanded this data set to
include an additional 68 studies published between 2003 and
2011. Some of the additional data (20032009) were gathered for
an unpublished Master’s thesis (Mota 2010). Further studies from
2010 to 2011 were added by co-authors Ahnstr
om and Winqvist,
finishing the literature search by the end of 2011. The full data
set consists of 94 publications (see Appendix S1 in Supporting
information). When updating the data set of Bengtsson,
om and Weibull (2005), we used the same keywords in ISI
web of knowledge: biodiversity, biological diversity, conventional
farming (agriculture) and organic farming (agriculture). We
searched for additional studies by scanning the bibliographies in
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
Hierarchical meta-analysis of organic farming 747
publications identified from our search. We followed the relevant
literature and discussed with colleagues throughout. Our data set
contains results from technical reports as well as peer-reviewed
journals. Although it is unlikely that the data we present are
complete, we believe these studies are an extensive and represen-
tative sample.
For a publication to be included in the analysis, it had to pro-
vide species richness data (n > 1) in both organic and conven-
tional systems. This could be in the form of raw data or the
mean species richness, standard deviation and sample size in both
farming systems. In some cases, we used other richness data pro-
vided in the publications for example, Shannon H’ (M
et al. 2002; Mart
anchez 2008) or richness of taxa higher
than species level (e.g. Galv
an et al. 2009; Crowder et al. 2010).
Unfortunately, many of the published studies do not meet these
criteria and therefore did not provide sufficient data to be useful
in a meta-analysis (see Appendix S2, Table S3 Supporting infor-
Organic agriculture is normally defined as any farming system
where the use of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers is
prohibited or strictly limited. Organic farms often have other dif-
ferences, for example they tend to use more complex crop rota-
tions as a weed- and pest-control strategy and use animal
manure, green manure or compost in place of synthetic fertilizers.
Conventional systems, however, use pesticides and inorganic fer-
tilizers to various degrees and often use simplified crop rotations
and fewer crops. Due to the broad range of farming systems that
can be grouped within organic and conventional definitions, the
two farming systems are likely to differ between and within stud-
ies. However, despite these potential differences, we did not fur-
ther subdivide farming systems to avoid using more than two
treatments in the meta-analysis.
For each effect size, we extracted taxonomic and functional
data on the study organism(s). We also recorded (i) the sampling
unit of the species richness data (e.g. numbers per trap or tran-
sect), (ii) the sampling scale (plot, field or farm) and (iii) the crop
type. Data on species richness were extracted from the text, tables
or figures in publications using the program
2.25 (Fedorov 2013) when necessary. Other measures of
variation presented in publications were converted to standard
The information on taxonomic groups was used to create cate-
gorical covariates for different higher taxonomic units and eco-
logical functions. For taxonomic groups, we classified species as:
arthropods, birds, microbes and plants. Data on earthworms,
mammals, nematodes and protozoa were excluded from this
analysis due to small sample sizes (n < 5). For functional groups,
we classified species as producers (plants), herbivores, pollinators
(as adults), predators, soil-living decomposers and others (includ-
ing omnivores and organisms with variable or unknown func-
tional characteristics). The functional classification is based on
the idea that different organism groups may contribute to differ-
ent ecosystem services. We acknowledge that considerable uncer-
tainty about ecological function exists for several groups: carabid
beetles, for example, are often considered to provide pest control
Ostman, Ekbom & Bengtsson 2001, 2003), but many species are
known to be at least partly herbivorous seed eaters (Jonason
et al. 2013).
We also separated the data according to crop type. Given the
data, we were able to identify the following crop types: cereals,
grassland (usually permanent or semi-permanent leys or
pastures), mixed crops (comparison made across several different
crops), orchards, vegetable crops and miscellaneous (i.e. not spec-
ified precisely in the original study). Many studies include multi-
ple records for different organism groups or crop types on the
same farm. These were treated as distinct within-study observa-
tions and used to calculate separate effect sizes for subgroups. As
a result, our data set of 94 studies was subdivided into 184 obser-
vations (see Statistical analysis for more details).
Three metrics of land-use intensity were collected using Google
Earth (2013). We conducted new landscape analyses for all
included studies in order to provide continuous standardized
measures of land-use intensity and complexity. We distinguished
between different land-use types: field (annual and perennial
crops, ley, grazed ley), pasture (perennial grassland used for graz-
ing), forest (including clear-cuts), wetland, water, rural, urban
and permanent line elements (e.g. ditches, hedge rows, roads
etc.). Using these land cover classifications, we calculated (i) %
arable fields the proportion of the landscape covered by arable
fields; (ii) number of habitats the number of distinguishable
habitats found in the landscape; and (iii) average field size the
average size of arable fields in the landscape. The percentage of
arable fields is a measure of land-use intensity, while the number
of habitats represents landscape complexity. However, an inten-
sively farmed region is likely to include fewer habitats than a
more extensively farmed area. The average field size may reflect
the overall extent of farming on the landscape but, depending on
local farming practices, not necessarily farming intensity.
To calculate the three metrics, we first identified a standardized
sampling space at each location based on descriptions in the ori-
ginal publications. Where coordinates were not provided, we
identified an area that we were confident, included the study area
based on descriptions in the text. We then identified a central
measuring point, making sure it was placed in a landscape with
agricultural fields, and the radius (in metres) defining the appro-
priate area for sampling around this point. If no information
about the area of the study region was available, we visually
examined the Google Map image and set the radius so that the
included landscape was representative of its complexity (and simi-
lar to the landscape closest to the central point). We then ran-
domly placed five 1-km transects within this study region. The
positions of the five transects were defined by sets of three ran-
domly generated numbers. The first number, randomly selected
between 0 (central measuring point) and the radius of the study
region, denoted how many metres from the central point the
starting point of each transect would be situated. The second
number specified the angle (degrees), defining the direction rela-
tive to the central point for which the start point of the transect
should be placed. Combined, these two random numbers created
a bearing, from the centre of the study region, that defined the
transect location. The final number would randomly select
between 0, 45, 90, and 180 degrees to specify the angle at which
the transect should be drawn, 500 m to each side of the start
point. Transects were not allowed to cross. Our measures of land-
scape complexity and land-use intensity were calculated for each
transect, extracted directly from Google Earth and input to our
data base and averaged to give mean values of each metric for
each study or substudy region. The transects sampled were line
transects with no surrounding buffer.
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
748 S. L. Tuck et al.
In some cases, several studies had been conducted in the same
area, in which case the same landscape data were used. When
publications that garnered multiple observations had been con-
ducted in multiple regions, and data specified per region, we col-
lected landscape data per region. If the study region was not
specified at all but only the country we used the mean values
of all other studies in that country. The Google Maps analysed
were always the most recent images available. This represents one
caveat in our landscape analysis: for older studies, there is a time
lag between the date the study was conducted and the date our
landscape data were collected. Many of the early studies were
conducted in Europe, a region that we would expect to show the
least landscape change (in agricultural areas) over the relevant
time span.
Our effect size is the log response ratio, which quantifies the pro-
portional difference between mean species richness in conven-
tional and organic farming (Hedges, Gurevitch & Curtis 1999).
On the log scale, an effect size of 0 means no difference and a
positive value means that the organic farm has higher species
richness than the conventional farm. The log response ratio dis-
plays bias at small sample sizes, when the normal approximation
to the distribution of the effect size deviates from the exact distri-
bution. To assess the appropriateness of this approximation,
nl/r for both mean values within each effect size should be
generally >3 (Hedges, Gurevitch & Curtis 1999). In our data set,
only 10% of effect sizes fall below 3, while ~71% of scores exceed
6, and hence, the log response ratio is appropriate.
Our analysis was carried out using
R 3.0.1 (R Development
Core Team 2013) with the
R package metahdep (Stevens & Taylor
2009). The models were fitted to the data using the function
metahdep.HBLM. We analysed 184 separate observations for sub-
groups within studies that is, different taxonomic groups or
crop types. A random effect was used to account for differences
across studies, for example, among farming systems included
within organic and conventional groups. A grand mean effect
size, across subgroups, was calculated using an intercept model
(Borenstein et al. 2009). Variables of interest, selected a priori,
were included in a metaregression to see whether they explained
any differences in biodiversity on organic vs. conventional farms.
These variables were functional groups, taxonomic groups, the
three landscape measures (see Land-use intensity metrics), crop
types and scale of sampling (plot, field, or farm). Uncertainty in
the regression coefficients was quantified using 95% credible
intervals. Credible intervals were calculated by multiplying the
posterior standard error of the coefficients by the 95% point of a
t-distribution with Np degrees of freedom. We estimated hetero-
geneity between effect sizes, s
. This estimates the proportion of
between-studies variance that is true variance, as opposed to
within-study sampling error. This heterogeneity measure was used
to estimate I
, the proportion of total variance that is due to true
heterogeneity among effect sizes (Higgins & Thompson 2002).
There is hierarchical dependence between multiple observations
within studies. Having several effect sizes obtained from the same
publication violates the assumption that effect sizes are indepen-
dent. A publication-level random effect allowed us to account for
the dependency of multiple within-study observations. The non-
independence among effect sizes gathered from the same publica-
tion was defined by specifying a covariance structure in the
study-specific random deviations, as parameterized by s
& Taylor 2009). Defining dependence groups meant that a large
group of within-study effect sizes with extreme effect sizes was
down-weighted, preventing them from having a dominant effect
on the overall result. By incorporating this hierarchical variance
structure, we could disentangle important differences between
organisms and crop types without assuming independence of
The potential for bias in published results in the literature to
skew synthesized results is seen as a common limitation for meta-
analyses (Borenstein et al. 2009; Gillman & Wright 2010). There
are two ways that bias could be introduced: (i) a tendency for
only ‘significantly positive’ results to be published the ‘file
drawer problem’ or (ii) studies are not representative of the popu-
lation that is, there are evidence gaps in the literature, where
the question has not been investigated in certain contexts. A sim-
ple ecological example would be a lack of studies representing a
system relative to its global importance; this is a bias produced
by consensus in the literature that is not founded on a representa-
tive sample of reality. Meta-analysis can provide a general quan-
titative synthesis. It should also describe bias in the literature and
indicate where that bias may lie. We investigated bias in both the
forms described above.
To investigate bias in the ‘file drawer’ context, we characterized
funnel plot asymmetry in the data. The funnel plot is based on
the assumption that studies with smaller sample sizes (and hence
higher sampling variance) are more likely to be skewed, because
they have lower statistical power; hence, negative and low-effect
results from small-sample studies are missing from the literature.
To produce a funnel plot from our hierarchical model, we plotted
the residuals against precision (inverse sampling standard error;
Nakagawa & Santos 2012). In combination with this funnel plot,
we conducted a trim and fill assessment, whereby it is assumed
that skew is due to publication bias and compensates for this by
‘filling in’ new effect sizes until the skew in the residuals is cor-
rected for. To investigate this further, we conducted a cumulative
meta-analysis in which studies are progressively added to the
data set in the order of increasing sampling variance which
qualitatively shows how quickly the overall mean stabilizes and
whether the final estimate is strongly affected by the less reliable
studies. We also estimated the slope of the relationship between
sampling variance and effect size. Combining these diagnostics
allowed us to explore asymmetry in the data and then, under the
assumption that this is due to publication bias, assess its impact
on our result. The cumulative meta-analysis approach was used
to assess change in the overall effect size over time by progres-
sively adding studies in order of publication year, and again by
estimating the slope of the relationship between publication year
and effect size. To investigate ‘evidence gap’ bias, we compared
our data set with global data on the area of organic farming
across the globe and for different crop types, collected from the
FAO website [Food & Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAOSTAT) 2013]. We used this comparison to discuss
how representative the current literature is of global organic
farming trends.
The overall mean log response ratio was 0296 (95% CI:
02310361); this indicates that species richness on
organic farms is on average 34% (95% CI: 2643) higher
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
Hierarchical meta-analysis of organic farming 749
than conventional. The estimated standard deviation of
the true effect sizes, s, was 0304 (variance for
s = 00004). This true variance among effect sizes com-
prised an overwhelming proportion of total variance
= 974%). These results reveal substantial heterogene-
ity among effect sizes, although many studies showed a
large positive effect of organic farming on biodiversity rel-
ative to conventional farming. The estimate for hierarchi-
cal dependence was positive, meaning that the covariance
among within-publication effect sizes will downweight
large groups of effect sizes that would otherwise have an
excessive effect on the overall result.
We found large differences in the effect of organic
farming on different taxonomic and functional groups
(Fig. 1a,b; Table S2, Supporting information). For exam-
ple, among taxonomic groups, plants benefited the most
from organic farming (Fig. 1b). Arthropods, birds and
microbes also showed a substantial positive effect. Disag-
gregating organisms into functional groups showed a vari-
ety of responses: among functional groups, the largest
effect size was found for pollinators while decomposers
showed little effect (Fig. 1a). The crop types showed vary-
ing responses, with large positive effect sizes in cereals
and mixed farming, and moderate positive effect sizes for
all others (Fig. 1c).
The percentage arable fields had a positive effect on
the magnitude of the effect size (slope log(RR) = 0442,
95% CI: 0089 to 0973; Fig. 2). To assess the sensitiv-
ity of this slope estimate to the largest (‘outlying’) effect
sizes, we removed the four data points with log(RR) >2
and reperformed the analysis; there was a small reduc-
tion in the slope estimate (0396). Other landscape met-
rics had slope estimates close to zero (number of habitats:
log(RR) = 0006, 95% CI: 0019 to 0031; average field
size: log(RR) = 0001, 95% CI: 0001 to 0002). When
the percentage of arable fields was fitted as an interac-
tion with functional group, there was substantial hetero-
geneity in the resulting slopes. However, there was
significant uncertainty in these estimates, possibly due to
small sample sizes within some functional groups; thus,
we choose to report this result qualitatively: increasing
landscape intensity affected the magnitude of the effect
size in the order: herbivores > ‘other’ > predators > pro-
ducers > decomposers > pollinators. The sampling scale
of species richness observation did not appreciably
change the effect size (farm = 0249, 95% CI: 0161
0338; treatment contrasts with farm scale: field = 0139,
95% CI: 0002 to 0279; plot = 0017, 95% CI:
0222 to 0187).
The representation of different crop types in the meta-
analysis was comparable with the global FAO statistics;
there were similar proportions of cereals, vegetables and
Fig. 1. The difference in species richness (%) on organic farms,
relative to conventional, classified: (a) by functional group (n:
decomposers = 19, herbivores = 6, other = 27, pollinators = 21,
predators = 49, producers = 62), (b) by organism group (n: ar-
thropods = 89, birds = 17, microbes = 6, plants = 62) and (c) by
crop types (n: cereals = 100, grasses = 13, mixed = 40,
orchard = 9, unspecified = 6, vegetables = 16). The grand mean is
shown in black, accompanied by the black line. The dashed lines
show the zero line. 95% credible intervals are calculated from
posterior standard errors.
Fig. 2. The relationship between the effect size and the propor-
tion of the landscape covered by arable fields showing a regres-
sion slope with 95% confidence intervals.
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
750 S. L. Tuck et al.
orchards (fruit; Fig. 3a), although fibre and oil crops were
underrepresented. The geographical representation in our
data set, however, showed much less congruence
(Fig. 3b): Western and Northern Europe, and to some
degree North America, were highly overrepresented, while
studies were largely lacking from most other geographical
regions, especially Asia, Africa and Australia.
The funnel plot (Fig. 4a) showed some positive bias. A
trim and fill assessment of how publication bias could
impact our inference, after correcting for positive funnel
plot skew, produced a negligible reduction in the effect
size (00001, three studies added). This suggests that, if
publication bias is evident, the reported effect size is
robust to its impact. Investigating further, the cumulative
meta-analysis of effect sizes sorted by sampling variance
showed that less reliable studies caused the grand mean to
increase, but not drastically so (Fig. 4b). If we assume
that this was due to publication bias then the most con-
servative effect size estimate is 0190 (95% CI: 0135
0246), which still corresponds to a >20% increased spe-
cies richness on organic farms. This was the minimum
value obtained from the cumulative plot and was reached
after c. 80 observations (out of 184) were included. This
reduced effect size did not greatly alter our interpretation
of the magnitude of organic farming’s positive effect on
biodiversity. The relationship between sampling variance
and the effect size had a positive slope (0022, 95% CI:
0056 to 0101), which confirms the positive association
seen in Fig. 4.
The cumulative meta-analysis plot for data sorted by
publication date (Fig. 4c) showed that the grand mean
effect size estimated from our model was robust over
time, although, interestingly, many of the earliest studies
reported very high effect sizes. The lack of change with
time was supported by a slope estimate close to zero
(0003, 95% CI: 0007 to 0013).
Our updated meta-analysis shows that organic farming on
average increases biodiversity (measured as species rich-
ness) by about one-third relative to conventional farming.
This result has been robust over the last 30 years of pub-
lished studies and shows no sign of diminishing. Organic
farming is therefore a tried and tested method for increas-
ing biodiversity on farmlands and may help to reverse the
continued declines of formerly common species in devel-
oped nations (Burns et al. 2013). Similar results have been
previously obtained (Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om & Weibull
2005; Fuller et al. 2005; Hole et al. 2005; Bat
ary et al.
2011; Garratt, Wright & Leather 2011), but our study is
the most up to date, deals with the hierarchical structure
of multiple within-publication effect sizes and includes
standardized measures of land-use intensity and heteroge-
neity across all studies.
In other areas of biology and medicine, it has been
noted that, with the addition of further evidence, effect
sizes concerning a particular question often decrease over
time (Jennions & Møller 2002). This is thought to occur
because of initial publication bias against non-significant
or negative results that is eventually corrected. The effect
size in our new study is slightly lower than the one
reported in Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om and Weibull (2005);
however, our analysis reveals that the grand mean effect
size is robust over time (Fig. 4c). There is therefore no
sign of a dwindling effect size with the addition of further
evidence. This implies that the increase in diversity with
organic farming that we report here is robust, given the
Mixed Misc.
Oil crops
Fibre crops
S Europe
WC Europe
WC Europe
Meta-analysis data FAO data
Fig. 3. Top row: proportions of different
crop types present in the meta-analysis
data set compared with the frequency of
the most commonly grown organic crops
world-wide. Bottom row: geographical ori-
gin of studies in the meta-analysis data set
compared with the area under organic pro-
duction in different regions of the world.
FAO data obtained from their website
(FAOSTAT 2013).
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
Hierarchical meta-analysis of organic farming 751
choice of crops and study areas included (see below for a
discussion of the representativeness of our study).
Many authors have speculated on and investigated the
importance of landscape characteristics in shaping the
likely effect of organic farming on biodiversity (Bengts-
son, Ahnstr
om & Weibull 2005; Rundl
of & Smith 2006;
of, Bengtsson & Smith 2008; Rundl
of, Nilsson &
Smith 2008; Bat
ary et al. 2011). Here, we calculated
three standardized measures of land-use intensity and
heterogeneity for all studies: the proportion of arable
fields, the typical field size and the number of habitats.
Only the proportion of arable fields in the landscape had
any significant overall effect. The difference in diversity
between organic and conventional farming generally
increased with increasing proportion of arable fields,
although there was large variation around the estimated
slope. Some of this variance may be due to different
responses between functional groups (Bat
ary et al. 2011).
The slope of this relationship decreased in the order:
decomposers > ‘other’ > predators > herbivores > produc-
ers > pollinators, suggesting that the effect of organic
farming on predators is greater in intensively managed
landscapes, whereas the effect of organic farming on
pollinators does not increase much with land-use inten-
sity. These differences may be due to the importance of
local actions relative to regional actions and to the move-
ment of organisms and chemicals across the landscape.
For example, some pollinators are known to be sensitive
to certain pesticides (Goulson 2013), leading to an EU
moratorium on neonicotinoids. If an organic farmer
refrains from using pesticides, then local pollinator rich-
ness might increase; however, given that these chemicals
might drift substantially, and that pollinators on an
organic farm will likely visit neighbouring farms, the
impact of this local action might have no more effect in
an intensively managed landscape compared with an
extensive one.
We expected that the magnitude of the positive effect of
organic farming would vary among organism groups, as
this has been found repeatedly (Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om &
Weibull 2005; Fuller et al. 2005; Bat
ary et al. 2011; Garr-
att, Wright & Leather 2011; Winqvist et al. 2011; Winqvist,
om & Bengtsson 2012). As in previous studies, we
found that plants benefited most from organic farming,
probably because of restricted herbicide use (Roschewitz
et al. 2005; Rundl
of, Edlund & Smith 2010). Arthropods,
birds and microbes also benefited, with varying levels of
estimated confidence. Accordingly, most functional groups
herbivores, pollinators, predators and producers were
more diverse in organic farming, with the exception of
decomposers. The lack of positive effects on decomposers,
which are mostly soil fauna, is surprising given that there
are positive effects of organic farming on soil conditions
and soil carbon (M
ader et al. 2002; Gattinger et al. 2012).
This may be because variation in soil type and structure is
more important for soil organisms than the farming system
itself. Such interactions between factors influencing the
diversity and abundance of soil organisms would repay
more investigation. The strong positive effects of organic
farming on herbivores and pollinators are consistent with
other studies (Rundl
of & Smith 2006; Holzschuh, Steffan-
Dewenter & Tscharntke 2008; Rundl
of, Bengtsson & Smith
2008; Garratt, Wright & Leather 2011).
We found significant differences in the effect of organic
farming among crop types. In cereal fields, which com-
prised >50% of the studies, organic farming had large
Sampling variance
Publication date
Sample size (cumulative total)
Effect size (log response ratio) Effect size (log response ratio)
(b) (c)
Fig. 4. (a) Funnel plot showing asymmetry in the spread of resid-
uals around the mean, created using the R package meta (Schwar-
zer 2010). The dashed line shows 95% confidence limits. (b)
Cumulative meta-analysis forest plot of data sorted by increasing
sampling variance. (c) Cumulative meta-analysis forest plot of
data sorted by increasing publication date.
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
752 S. L. Tuck et al.
effects, significantly higher than in vegetable crops and
orchards (Fig. 1c). This might reflect the intensive man-
agement of conventional cereal crops, with repeated appli-
cations of inorganic fertilizers and fungicides. The effect
size in both vegetable crops and orchards, although posi-
tive, did not differ significantly from zero, but this could
be due to small sample sizes. A lower but still significant
effect was found in grasslands (pastures and permanent or
semi-permanent leys), which are generally not so inten-
sively managed. The number of studies in grasslands, veg-
etables and orchards was quite low, and we recommend
that these crops are given more attention in the future.
In a previous meta-analysis (Bengtsson, Ahnstr
om &
Weibull 2005), small-scale studies (on the plot or single
field scale) showed much larger effect sizes than studies
on larger spatial scales. However, we found negligible dif-
ferences across scales. This suggests that the general bene-
fit of organic farming is robust across sampling scales, in
contrast to recent work that suggests that this benefit
diminishes at larger scales (Gabriel et al. 2010; Crowder
et al. 2012). The previous meta-analysis result may have
been due to small sample size or publication bias, which
highlights the importance of updating meta-analyses with
additional evidence. We note that most of the recent stud-
ies have been conducted at the farm scale, which is the
most relevant scale for evaluating both organic farming as
an agrienvironmental scheme for biodiversity, and for the
sustainability of farming systems in general.
The funnel plot suggests a positively biased spread of
effect sizes (Fig. 4a), which could be interpreted as a ten-
dency for studies showing large positive effects of conven-
tional farming on biodiversity to remain unpublished.
However, an alternative interpretation may be that large
positive effects of organic farming occur occasionally,
while large positive effects of conventional farming are
exceptionally unlikely. This seems reasonable given the
nonlinear nature of many natural processes, for example
population growth, which could occasionally fuel very
large impacts of not controlling certain groups of organ-
isms. In any case, the positive bias is slight and has been
shown to not affect our result.
Previous studies of organic farming on biodiversity
have been strongly biased towards temperate Western and
Northern Europe and North America (Fig. 3), that is,
intensive farming systems in developed countries. There is
extremely limited data available from other areas of the
world, for example, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Central
and Southern America, a bias also noted by Bat
ary et al.
(2011), Martin, Blossey and Ellis (2012), and Randall and
James (2012). We therefore recommend that studies of
organic farming practices on diversity in tropical and sub-
tropical areas (e.g. Deb 2009; Zhang et al. 2013) should
receive high priority. It is, for example, surprising that
there are no studies on organic bananas or cacao, despite
these products being widely available in European super-
markets. Mediterranean climates are also underrepre-
sented, although a few studies from California
(Drinkwater et al. 1995; Letourneau & Bothwell 2008;
Kremen, Iles & Bacon 2012) and South Africa (Kehinde
& Samways 2012) exist.
The yields from organic farms are generally lower than
conventional yields, although some controversy exists con-
cerning the size of this effect and whether it is more
prominent in developed countries (Badgley et al. 2007; De
Ponti, Rijk & van Ittersum 2012; Dobermann 2012; Rega-
nold 2012; Seufert, Ramankutty & Foley 2012). As out-
lined in the introduction, this implies a potential trade-off
between biodiversity and crop yields. For example, Gab-
riel et al. (2013) in a study of cereal crops in Southern
England concluded that the benefits of organic farming to
biodiversity were entirely bought at the cost of reduced
yield. They further suggested that the lower yields of
organic farming may therefore have the unfortunate result
of increasing the total area of land under agricultural pro-
duction. However, there are other, often unmeasured,
potential positive environmental benefits of organic farm-
ing. For example, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution
caused by leaching from intensively managed fields is still
a major problem in many countries and incurs significant
costs to society (Heathwaite, Sharpley & Gburek 2000).
An overall evaluation of organic farming in relation to
crop yields therefore needs to account for the effects of
farming practice on a wider range of environmental fac-
tors (Mondelaers, Aertsens & Huylenbroeck 2009; Sand-
hu, Wratten & Cullen 2010; Gattinger et al. 2012;
Bommarco, Kleijn & Potts 2013).
This analysis affirms that organic farming usually has
large positive effects on average species richness compared
with conventional farming. Given the large areas of land
currently under agricultural production, organic methods
could undoubtedly play a major role in halting the contin-
ued loss of diversity from industrialized nations. The
effect of organic farming varied with the organism group
and crop studied, and with the proportion of arable land
in the surrounding landscape. We found larger effects in
cereals, among plants and pollinators, and in landscapes
with higher land-use intensity. Despite the fact that
organic farming has been suggested to have large effects
on soil conditions, its effects on soil organisms were
ambiguous and in general understudied. Finally, it is clear
that three decades of studying the effects of organic farm-
ing on biodiversity have been heavily biased towards agri-
cultural systems in the developed world, especially Europe
and North America. We therefore recommend that other
regions and agricultural systems are given much greater
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
Hierarchical meta-analysis of organic farming 753
attention. In particular, more studies are needed in tropi-
cal, subtropical and Mediterranean climates. Studies at
any scale would be beneficial: at the farm scale because
this is the economic unit of farming, and at the landscape
scale because this is the scale at which many organisms
respond. This would allow a more balanced and globally
relevant assessment of organic farming effects on biodi-
versity, ecosystem services, food production and agricul-
tural sustainability.
We thank authors who performed the reviewed studies (see Appendix S1
Supporting inform ation) and who corresponded with us during data col-
lection, and FAO for the publication of their data. We also thank Peter
ary and one anonymous reviewer for constructive feedback, and John
Stevens for help with calculating residuals. The work was funded by the
Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the Ekhaga Foundation. SLT
was supported by UK Natural Environment Research Council.
Author contributions
SLT, JB and LAT designed the analyses and drafted the
paper; SLT performed the analyses; JA, CW and FM col-
lected the data. The original idea for the study emerged
from discussions between JB, LAT, JA, FM and CW.
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Supporting Information
Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version
of this article.
Appendix S1. List of studies included in the meta-analysis.
Appendix S2.
PRISMA flowchart showing the data collection deci-
sion process.
Table S1. Model estimates.
Table S2. Coefficient estimates for subgroups included in Fig. 1.
Table S3. List of studies rejected during data collection, with rea-
sons for rejection.
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society., Journal of
Applied Ecology, 51, 746–755
Hierarchical meta-analysis of organic farming 755
... Due to its integrated approach, organic farming has some systemic advantages in terms of promoting biodiversity in agroecosystems, which have repeatedly been described (Bengtsson et al. 2005;Hole et al. 2005;Petersen 2002;Tuck et al. 2014). Ecological land management can lead to a higher abundance of plants, insects, and birds, among others (Tuck et al. 2014). ...
... Due to its integrated approach, organic farming has some systemic advantages in terms of promoting biodiversity in agroecosystems, which have repeatedly been described (Bengtsson et al. 2005;Hole et al. 2005;Petersen 2002;Tuck et al. 2014). Ecological land management can lead to a higher abundance of plants, insects, and birds, among others (Tuck et al. 2014). A distinction can be made between direct effects of the management system, e.g., through the use of insecticides in conventional agriculture, and indirect effects such as a more diverse and richer food base on organically farmed land through the non-use of herbicides. ...
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Ground beetles (carabids) constitute an important functional component of biodiversity in agroecosystems, mainly because of their role as predators of pests, but also as consumers of weed seeds and as prey to other organisms. Over the past few decades, there has been a marked and continuous decline of ground beetles in Europe, and many species of this insect family are threatened by intensive agricultural practices. The effect of soil tillage, a standard technique in arable farming, on carabids has been investigated in many experimental studies. However, there is currently no clear and differentiated picture of how ground beetles are affected by tillage operations in direct and indirect ways. In this review, we narrow this gap of knowledge and show that the effects of intensive tillage on ground beetles—especially the use of mouldboard ploughing—are extremely variable. Nonetheless, on balance across multiple studies, greater tillage intensity tends to have a negative effect on abundance, species richness, and diversity. The observed variability may partly be attributed to a change in species-specific food availability or habitat conditions, induced by tillage. Tillage effects on dominant species tend to have a strong impact on total carabid abundance. The high variability of carabid responses to tillage is also a consequence of various modifying factors such as cover cropping, rotations, and variations in weed control associated with tillage. Because different modes of tillage tend to affect different carabid species, the diversification of tillage operations within a farm or region may contribute to the overall diversity of carabid communities.
... Organic farming can is considered to be favourable for conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Organic farming system by reducing pesticidal poisoning and increasing food abundance in form of weeds, seeds and invertebrates is found to shore-up nearly 30% more species comparable to conventional farming (Tuck et al., 2014) [113] . Increased abundance has been recorded during winter in low intense agriculture where diverse annual crops are grown in small farms, small woodlots and orchards in Himalayas and vineyards in Switzerland (Guyot et al., 2017) [42] . ...
... Organic farming can is considered to be favourable for conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Organic farming system by reducing pesticidal poisoning and increasing food abundance in form of weeds, seeds and invertebrates is found to shore-up nearly 30% more species comparable to conventional farming (Tuck et al., 2014) [113] . Increased abundance has been recorded during winter in low intense agriculture where diverse annual crops are grown in small farms, small woodlots and orchards in Himalayas and vineyards in Switzerland (Guyot et al., 2017) [42] . ...
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Agricultural ornithology describes relationship between birds and agro ecosystems; it's an emerging field of keen interest among ornithologists of agriculture dominating countries. Indian subcontinent provides habitat to about 1300 resident or migratory bird species (13% of the world's avifauna) including 141 endemic species. Agro-ecosystems are mainly dominated by granivorous, insectivorous and omnivorous species and gets food in the form of seeds, grains, fruits, insects and rodents. A huge diversity can be observed at roosting sites based on the species-specific preference for a particular habitat, safety and need of the food and water sources. Economic ornithology accounts for costs and benefits of avian species to mankind and resources like agriculture, horticulture, sports and trade etc. Ecosystem services by birds are pest control, scavenging, pollination, seed dispersal etc. and are imperious for nature and mankind. Predatory and insectivorous birds play vital roles for biocontrol services in agricultural landscapes possibly leading to an increase in agricultural yield. This review concludes with cost benefit assessment of avifauna in agriculture, ecosystem services rendered by birds, sustainable pest management and conservation practices.
... Organic agriculture provides an alternative management paradigm that limits environmental externalities through the adoption of practices that promote ecosystem services; most notably soil health (Tuck et al., 2013;Reganold and Wachter, 2016;Muller et al., 2017). However, concerns over organic grain production systems' dependence . ...
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As recognition increases of the benefits of reducing soil disturbance to preserve soil health, there is mounting interest in developing innovative methods of using cover crops as living mulches to control weeds in organic grain systems. Spring-planted winter cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) interseeded with soybeans (Glycine max. [L.] Merr.) is a promising, yet untested, living mulch system because rye exhibits vigorous growth in the early spring during the critical weed free period, but then dies back as the soybean canopy matures. The objectives of this study were to compare a rye living mulch system with a tilled “organic business-as-usual” control, and to understand the risks and benefits associated with delaying soybean planting date to manage the weed seed bank prior to establishment of rye and soybeans. Three treatments including (1) a June-planted rye and soybean living mulch system, (2) a June planted tilled control, and (3) a May planted tilled control, were compared in terms of weed prevalence and soybean grain yield in a randomized complete block experimental design with four replications implemented across 3 site years from 2019 to 2020. Interseeding rye as a living mulch resulted in consistently higher weed pressure as compared to tilled controls. Increased weed pressure in May- over June-planted controls in 2 of 3 site years indicate planting date influences weed dynamics. Rye biomass was positively correlated with soybean yield (R2 = 0.76, r = 0.87, p < 0.05) and negatively correlated with weed biomass (R2 = 0.63, r = −0.79, p < 0.05). Under optimal conditions where rye biomass was maximized, interseeding rye adequately suppressed weeds without reducing soybean yields as compared to tilled controls. However, under drier conditions with lower rye production, increased weed pressure and reduced yields emphasize the risks associated with living mulch systems.
... The quantitative EU policy targets for biodiversity (Table 2) only account for biodiversity that would benefit from land being freed up from agriculture, and do not consider farmland biodiversity for which organic farming has proven to be beneficial (Tuck et al., 2014). One of the drivers behind the higher biodiversity found on organic farmland is greater diversity in land uses, which we measured in this study using the heterogeneity of agricultural land use indicator (Fig. 5). ...
Agroecology has been proposed as a strategy to improve food system sustainability, but has also been criticised for using land inefficiently. We compared five explorative storylines, developed in a stakeholder process, for future food systems in the EU to 2050. We modelled a range of biophysical (e.g., land use and food production), environmental (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions) and social indicators, and potential for regional food self-sufficiency, and investigated the economic policy needed to reach these futures by 2050. Two contrasting storylines for upscaling agroecological practices emerged. In one, agroecology was implemented to produce high-value products serving high-income consumers through trade but, despite 40 % of agricultural area being under organic management, only two out of eight EU environmental policy targets were met. As diets followed current trends in this storyline, there were few improvements in environmental indicators compared with the current situation, despite large-scale implementation of agroecological farming practices. This suggests that large-scale implementation of agroecological practices without concurrent changes on the demand side could aggravate existing environmental pressures. However, our second agroecological storyline showed that if large-scale diffusion of agroecological farming practices were implemented alongside drastic dietary change and waste reductions, major improvements on environmental indicators could be achieved and all relevant EU policy targets met. An alternative storyline comprising sustainable intensification in combination with dietary change and waste reductions was efficient in meeting targets related to climate, biodiversity, ammonia emissions, and use of antibiotics, but did not meet targets for reductions in pesticide and fertiliser use. These results confirm the importance of dietary change for food system climate mitigation. Economic modelling showed a need for drastic changes in consumer preferences towards more plant-based, agroecological and local foods, and for improvements in technology, for these storylines to be realised, as very high taxes and tariffs would otherwise be needed.
... Thirdly, it is reported that organic farming enhances the abundance and diversity of several taxa, from plants to birds, as compared to conventional arable farming (Tuck et al., 2014). However, somewhat contrasting results have been reported in viticulture: some studies reported a neutral effect (Bruggisser et al., 2010;Uzman et al., 2020) and others a positive effect of organic farming on certain predatory arthropods (Caprio et al., 2015;Ostandie et al., 2021). ...
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Healthy soils form the basis of sustainable viticulture, where soil characteristics have a direct impact on wine quantity and quality. Soil not only provides water and nutrients to vines, but is also a living medium containing micro- and macroorganisms that perform many ecological functions and provide ecosystem services. These organisms are involved in many processes, from decomposing organic matter to providing minerals to vine roots. They also control diseases, pests, and weeds, in addition to improving the soil structure in terms of its capacity to retain water and nutrients. Related to decomposition processes, the carbon content of vineyard soils influences fertility, erosion and biogeochemical cycles, with significant implications for the global climate. However, common agricultural practices represent strong threats to biodiversity and associated ecosystem services provided by vineyard soils. As consumers increasingly consider environmental aspects in their purchase decisions, winegrowers have to adapt their vineyard management strategies, raising the demand for sustainable pest- and weed-control methods. This article presents a comprehensive review of the impacts of vineyard practices on the soil ecosystem, biodiversity, and biodiversity-based ecosystem services, and provides future prospects for sustainable viticulture.
... Only 1% of the Pampas region is protected under different conservation measures, while the remaining 99% is under agricultural use on private lands (APN, 2007). Evidence has shown that land use that includes crops grown without agrochemicals supports more biodiversity compared to conventional monocultures using pesticides (beecher et al., 2002;Mondelaers et al., 2009;rahmann, 2011;Tuck et al., 2014). Alternative productive systems have been shown to contribute to diversification of land use and consequently increased biodiversity. ...
In this thesis I assess the ability of biodiversity to provide a functioning pest control ecosystem service to control moth pest species in UK apple orchards. I assess the ability of four types of farm management: organic, Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), integrated pest management (IPM) and conventional, to measure the ability of pest predation from birds, and the impact that predation has on apple yields. I firstly describe the history and the landscape of the study area, an overview of the methods used and the farming systems that the field study and experiments took place on in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3 I assess farmland biodiversity by monitoring birds and butterflies as indicator species of biodiversity, to understand if farm management impacts biodiversity levels. Biodiversity was highest on organic orchards, which supports the plethora of studies in the literature. Using this information of biodiversity levels on orchard management types, in Chapter 4 I investigate whether this biodiversity supports a pest control service, and to a natural pest control service compares to a synthetic alternate used on non-organic orchards, through using a sentinel prey experiment in field. Pest control services were greater on organic farms, and followed the same patterns as insectivorous bird abundance, species richness, diversity, and density. This chapter also compares moth pest levels to understand the pest pressures across farms, which harbour different pest control strategies and showed that moth pest levels were broadly similar across all farm management types. Finally, in Chapter 5 I compare the farm management options available to famers, both the natural pest control system and the synthetic control system, using economic valuation methods. Although a natural pest control service from birds is present on organic orchards (Chapter 4), the yield per hectare increased significantly on non-organic orchards (expect LEAF) but is found to be in-different to yield value per hectare of organic orchards in variable scenarios. Importantly, the synthetic alternative to a pest control service available from wild insectivorous birds was found to be an insignificant farm management variable that impacts apple yield and yield value on non-organic orchards.
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Organic agriculture is a type of farming that avoids the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in order to protect the health of the soil, environment, and people. Farming techniques should be changed to have a beneficial environmental impact. Due to the presence of more chemical residues in conventional agriculture, food has negative health impacts. Organic farming has grown in popularity as a result of food quality and safety concerns. Organic farming is environment friendly. It is beneficial to the soil's long-term fertility. Organic farming is the finest option for long-term farming since the yield does not diminish with time but rather grows. Integrated organic farming is a zero-waste method in which waste from one operation is used as a resource or nutrient in another. Farmers should consider organic farming as a viable strategy for combating climate change. India has emerged as one of the world's leading organic producers. India has created numerous organic brands of its own. People all across the world are becoming more aware of the dangers of pesticides and are asking for organic foods. Farmers are returning to organic farming owing to the rising threats that conventional agriculture poses to production, human health, and the environment. Organic farming should continue to expand. Organic agricultural techniques should continue to increase, which will help to reduce agriculture's negative environmental implications.
Agri-environment schemes (AES) are valuable instruments to support pollination in agricultural landscapes. Evaluating AES based on their effects on pollinators has high practical relevance for agricultural production and nature conservation. In our two-year assessment, we studied the effectiveness of two AES (organic farming vs flower strips) on plant traits associated with pollinator attraction (flower size, colour, and ultraviolet pattern) and reward accessibility (flowering duration, and nectar quantity). We selected ten landscapes along a landscape-scale field size gradient in Central Germany. Three types of winter wheat fields (organic, and conventional fields with and without flower strips) were chosen in each landscape. We sampled the vegetation in transects designated in characteristic field parts, i.e. grassy margins, field edges (or flower strips), and field interiors in the growing seasons of 2016 and 2017. We calculated community-weighted means and functional diversity of plant traits and tested the effects of field size, management, and within-field position with linear mixed-effects models. We showed that organic fields and flower strips provided more abundant and functionally more diverse flowers than conventional fields. Flower strips were superior with the highest insect-pollinated plant cover and the highest ratio of plants with flowers showing ultraviolet patterns. Although grassy margins next to flower strips harboured twice as many species as those without flower strips, this positive effect did not emerge in conventional field interiors. Landscape configuration expressed as mean field size did not affect pollination traits in our study. Our results highlighted that both organic farming and flower strips maintained abundant and functionally diverse insect-pollinated flora, and thus they can potentially support larger pollinator communities. However, only organic farming could maintain high functional diversity of pollination-related plant traits in field interiors. Hence flower strips and organic farming in combination might be a good option for sustaining diverse pollinator communities and their services.
As agricultural intensification affects global environmental change, a redesign of our food production systems towards practices that replace external inputs with inbuilt ecosystem services is needed. Specifically, human-induced changes to biogeochemical flows of nitrogen (N) cycling exceed the proposed planetary boundaries, highlighting a priority area for reducing nutrient inputs in agricultural production systems. A new understanding of nutrient interactions in the complete agroecosystem will allow us to better predict and mitigate the consequences of anthropogenic environmental changes compared with a reductionist approach. Here, we review for the first time system-level nutrient interactions, particularly N, in perennial horticulture using high-producing kiwifruit and apple crops grown in New Zealand as a basis to identify critical knowledge gaps and prioritize new research. The major points identified are (1) current nutrient guidelines are from the 1980s to the early 2000s and do not take into account substantial production changes since that time; (2) few studies construct complete nutrient budgets of all sources and losses; (3) nutrient loss estimates are generally low relative to those from other agricultural land uses; (4) there is a lack of studies which address nutrient interactions between above- and below-ground food webs in perennial horticultural crops; (5) there is contradictory literature where fertilizer has been found both to increase and to decrease plant chemical signaling and defense mechanisms. New tools are emerging to improve orchard nutrient management, including advances in fertilizer application techniques, new methods to monitor plant and soil nutrients, and utilizing genetic variability to breed cultivars with improved nutrient use efficiency. To reduce adverse nutrient effects on the environment, new research is needed, addressing the relationships between carbon and nutrients and nutrient demands in modern fruit cultivars and growing systems; the nutrient balance for perennial horticultural crops considering all inputs and outputs; and interactions of the above- and below-ground nutrient flows in orchard food webs.
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This Special Issue on Diversified Farming Systems is motivated by a desire to understand how agriculture designed according to whole systems, agroecological principles can contribute to creating a more sustainable, socially just, and secure global food system. We first define Diversified Farming Systems (DFS) as farming practices and landscapes that intentionally include functional biodiversity at multiple spatial and/or temporal scales in order to maintain ecosystem services that provide critical inputs to agriculture, such as soil fertility, pest and disease control, water use efficiency, and pollination. We explore to what extent DFS overlap or are differentiated from existing concepts such as sustainable, multifunctional, organic or ecoagriculture. DFS are components of social-ecological systems that depend on certain combinations of traditional and contemporary knowledge, cultures, practices, and governance structures. Further, as ecosystem services are generated and regenerated within a DFS, the resulting social benefits in turn support the maintenance of the DFS, enhancing its ability to provision these services sustainably. We explore how social institutions, particularly alternative agri-food networks and agrarian movements, may serve to promote DFS approaches, but note that such networks and movements have other primary goals and are not always explicitly connected to the environmental and agroecological concerns embodied within the DFS concept. We examine global trends in agriculture to investigate to what extent industrialized forms of agriculture are replacing former DFS, assess the current and potential contributions of DFS to food security, food sovereignty and the global food supply, and determine where and under what circumstances DFS are expanding rather than contracting.
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In an integrated, multidisciplinary study we compared ecological characteristics and productivity of commercial farms categorized as either organic (ORG) or conventional (CNV) based on their use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or reliance on organic soil amendments and biological pest control. We measured belowground parameters: various soil chemical and biological properties and root disease severity; common agronomic indicators: biomass, fruit yield and insect pest damage; and community level indicators, including arthropod diversity and soil microbial activity and diversity. CNV and ORG production systems could not be distinguished based on agronomic criteria such as fruit yield and arthropod pest damage levels. However, differences were demonstrated in many soil, plant, disease, and diversity indicators suggesting that the ecological processes determining yields and pest levels in these two management systems are distinct. In particular, nitrogen mineralization potential and microbial and parasitoid abundance and diversity were higher in ORG farms. Differences between the agroecosystems were sufficiently robust to be distinguished from environmental variation and suggest that biological processes compensated for reductions in the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
The diversity and community structure of arthropods in an organic double-cropped rice ecosystem in Guangdong Province, China was studied. We compared the arthropod communities in the early season (Apr–Jul) crop to those in the late season (Aug–Nov) crop in 2009. The comparisons were undertaken using a combination of community assessment approaches, including morphospecies richness, the Shannon-Weaver diversity index, H', the Pielou-evenness index, J, the Simpson dominance index C, the Jaccard similarity index q and the compositions of the sub communities. We collected 114 species of arthropods, which consisted of including 58 species of spiders, 16 species of predatory insects, 25 species of phytophagous insects, 15 species of neutral/other insects, in early season crop. Subsequently we collected 109 species of arthropods, which consisted of 50 species of spiders, 19 species of predatory insects, 24 species of phytophagous insects, and 16 species of neutral/other insects, in the late season crop. There were no significant differences (P < 0.05) between the arthropod communities of the early and late season rice crops with respect to the Shannon-Weaver diversity index, the Pielou evenness index and the Simpson dominance index. Moreover the Jaccard similarity index in early and late season rice was as high, i.e., 0.70. The spider sub community had the greatest number of species in both rice crops, but the phytophagous insect sub community had the largest number of individuals in both rice crops. The dominance of predatory insects in the early season rice crop was significantly lower (P < 0.05) than in late season crop, but there was no significant difference in the composition of the neutral/other subcommunity between the early and late season rice crops.
IntroductionIndividual studiesThe summary effectHeterogeneity of effect sizesSummary points
Neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. They act systemically, travelling through plant tissues and protecting all parts of the crop, and are widely applied as seed dressings. As neurotoxins with high toxicity to most arthropods, they provide effective pest control and have numerous uses in arable farming and horticulture.However, the prophylactic use of broad-spectrum pesticides goes against the long-established principles of integrated pest management (IPM), leading to environmental concerns.It has recently emerged that neonicotinoids can persist and accumulate in soils. They are water soluble and prone to leaching into waterways. Being systemic, they are found in nectar and pollen of treated crops. Reported levels in soils, waterways, field margin plants and floral resources overlap substantially with concentrations that are sufficient to control pests in crops, and commonly exceed the LC50 (the concentration which kills 50% of individuals) for beneficial organisms. Concentrations in nectar and pollen in crops are sufficient to impact substantially on colony reproduction in bumblebees.Although vertebrates are less susceptible than arthropods, consumption of small numbers of dressed seeds offers a route to direct mortality in birds and mammals.Synthesis and applications. Major knowledge gaps remain, but current use of neonicotinoids is likely to be impacting on a broad range of non-target taxa including pollinators and soil and aquatic invertebrates and hence threatens a range of ecosystem services.