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Indicators for biodiversity in organic and low-input farming systems

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An indication of green farming

Researchers have selected indicators to assess biodiversity on farms. Those farming practices that have beneficial effects on our environment deserve a better recognition.

Health

Organic farming is a production system that avoids the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. And low-input farming is one based on reducing, but not necessarily eliminating, these chemicals. Both use natural methods to control insects, weeds and other pests. As such, both minimise the impact of farming on the environment, provide suitable habitats for wildlife and help maintain biodiversity. Until recently, the contribution made by these farming systems to biodiversity conservation in Europe was going unnoticed and unappreciated. Thus, the objective of the EU-funded project 'Indicators for biodiversity in organic and low-input farming systems' (Biobio) is to make their contribution more visible. The project is working to provide a set of indicators to assess genetic, species and habitat diversity in organic and low-input farming systems. These indicators not only have to be scientifically sound, but also practical and easy to measure. Dealing with those expectations and the resulting trade-offs are the main challenges facing the Biobio project. To date, the project has achieved a scientific review of existing indicators for genetic, species and habitat diversity on farmland. It has also selected 43 indicators to be tested in 12 European case studies. These include information on the number and type of animals, arable crops, flowering plants, bees and earthworms found on farms, as well as on their pesticide use. Project partners have also produced a handbook with harmonised methods for the measurement of the candidate indicators, applicable across Europe. On completion of the project, these indicators will help to provide information both for decision makers and the general public. They should enable the evaluation of agri-environmental measures and be used, for example, to substantiate the labelling or certification of farm goods.

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