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Farmers’ management of functional biodiversity goes beyond pest management in organic European apple orchards
- Penvern, S., Fernique, S., Cardona, A., Herz, A., Ahrenfeldt, E., Dufils, A., Jamar, L., Korsgaard, M., Kruczyńska, D., Matray, S., Ozolina-Pole, L., Porcel, M., Ralle, B., Steinemann, B., Świergiel, W., Tasin, M., Telfser, J., Warlop, F., Sigsgaard, L.
- Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.284 pp. 106555
- Malus domestica, apples, biodiversity, birds, composts, ecosystem services, farmers, infrastructure, interviews, managers, motivation, orchards, organic production, pesticide use reduction, pesticides, pests, surveys, Europe
- Supporting functional biodiversity (FB), which provides natural pest regulation, is an environmentally sound and promising approach to reduce pesticide use in perennial cultures such as apple, especially in organic farming. However, little is known about farmers’ practices and motivations to implement techniques that favor FB, especially whether or not they really expect anything from FB in terms of pest regulation. In fact, FB-supporting techniques (FB-techniques) are massively questioned by practitioners due to inadequate information about their effectiveness. An interview survey was performed in eight European countries(i) to describe farmers’ practices and identify promising FB-techniques: (ii) to better understand their perceptions of and values associated with FB; and (iii) to identify potential drivers of (non-)adoption. Fifty-five advisors and 125 orchard managers with various degrees of experience and convictions about FB were interviewed and a total of 24 different FB-techniques which can be assigned to three different categories (ecological infrastructures, farming practices and redesign techniques) were described. Some were well-established measures (e.g., hedges and bird houses), while others were more marginal and more recent (e.g., animal introduction and compost). On average, farmers combined more than four techniques that had been implemented over a period of 13 years, especially during their establishment or conversion period. In general, it was difficult for farmers to evaluate the effectiveness of individual FB-techniques on pest regulation. They considered FB-techniques as a whole, targeting multiple species, and valued multiple ecosystem services in addition to pest regulation. The techniques implemented and their associated values differed among farmers who adopted various approaches towards FB. Three different approaches were defined: passive, active and integrated. Their appraisal of FB is even more complex because it may change with time and experience. These findings provide empirical evidence that the practical implementation of promising techniques remains a challenge, considering the diversity of situations and evaluation criteria. Increased cooperation between researchers, farmers and advisors should more effectively target research, advisory support and communication to meet farmers’ needs and perceptions.