Agricultural biodiversity is essential for a sustainable improvement in food and nutrition security.

By Frison, E.A.; Cherfas, J.; Hodgkin, T.

Agricultural biodiversity has hitherto been valued almost exclusively as a source of traits that can be used in scientific breeding programs to improve the productivity of crop varieties and livestock breeds. We argue that it can make a far greater contribution to increased productivity. In particular, a wider deployment of agricultural biodiversity is an essential component in the sustainable delivery of a more secure food supply. Diversity of kingdoms, species and genepools can increase the productivity of farming systems in a range of growing conditions, and more diverse farming systems are also generally more resilient in the face of perturbations, thus enhancing food security. Diversity can maintain and increase soil fertility and mitigate the impact of pests and diseases. Diversity of diet, founded on diverse farming systems, delivers better nutrition and greater health, with additional benefits for human productivity and livelihoods. Agricultural biodiversity will also be absolutely essential to cope with the predicted impacts of climate change, not simply as a source of traits but as the underpinnings of more resilient farm ecosystems. Many of the benefits of agricultural biodiversity are manifested at different ecological and human scales, and cut across political divisions, requiring a cross-sectoral approach to reassess the role of agricultural biodiversity in sustainable and secure food production.

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