Insect biodiversity – Why should farmers care?
Biodiversity is on everyone’s agenda these days and for a good reason. According to the 2019 Global Risks Report, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse is considered one of the ten greatest risks facing society today (5). Since 1970, the world has lost 60% of its global vertebrate population, and more than 40% of insect species are declining rapidly (6). Seilbold et al. reported that the decline in flying insects are thought to be caused by human land use (2). Landscape simplification can lead to the decrease of ecosystem service-providing organisms (4).
A global synthesis published in Science Advances in October 2019 revealed that a smaller group of natural enemies and pollinators, with high species diversity (biodiversity) in the population, are more efficient than a larger group of these insects with a less diverse population (4). It has also been proven that higher pollinator density and species diversity can lead to higher crop yields (3). In the agriculture sector certain areas rely on animal pollination with about 235-577 billion USD worth of annual global food production relying directly on contribution from pollinators (7).
Maintaining species diversity in the field is therefore important. All insects have different roles. Pollinators have distinct methods of pollinating and the efficiency changes depending on the flower type. Deep flowers may need bees with longer tongues, and flowers like clover, need the weight of a heavy bee to open correctly. A well-known example of the importance of specific pollinators is the vanilla orchid, which is pollinated by the Melipona bee from Mexico. When grown commercially in other regions the flowers must be pollinated by hand because it is the only bee capable of pollinating the orchid.
Another area where the roles differ from species to species is with natural enemies. Some are specialists like many parasitoids, others are generalists like ladybirds. Both can attack the same insect, but the generalist may prefer to eat other insects while the parasitoid can only parasitize that specific insect. Therefor insects with special niches will affect the system differently than generalists.
Impacts of agriculture on biodiversity are generally well-known, however, there are still gaps in the knowledge on biodiversity, with an absence of comprehensive monitoring. This is where our sensor can help. Reducing pesticide use and supporting biological control and integrated pest management would help reduce one of the primary threats to bee and other insect populations, while also increasing the efficiency of farms (1).
We want to be part of monitoring biodiversity in and outside of fields, to help understand the field dynamics, secure efficiency of biodiversity measures and reduce the amount of insecticides used.