What is it about?

Making agriculture more sustainable and environmentally-friendly is one of the main routes to address the current global biodiversity crisis. Enhancing biodiversity can boost agricultural production through the ecosystem services provided by wild species, but very little is known about the economic profitability of integrating biodiversity-friendly management into farming systems. Jeroen Scheper and colleagues investigated the benefits of biodiversity-friendly farming for biodiversity, agricultural production and net farm profit in an intensive mixed farming system in south west France. The researchers inventoried flower availability and wild bee diversity in 21 agricultural grasslands (harvested for fodder), located right next to sunflower fields. The grasslands were managed in different ways: some more extensively, others more intensively. The scientists linked the numbers of observed flowers and bees in the grasslands to the pollination and yield of the neighboring sunflower fields. They found that reducing land-use intensity on agricultural grasslands greatly improved flower availability and wild bee diversity, including rare species. Moreover, adopting biodiversity-friendly management resulted in up to a 17% increase in revenue on neighboring sunflower fields due to the positive effects on pollination service delivery. However, the costs of reduced grassland forage yields consistently exceeded the economic benefits of enhanced sunflower pollination. The results therefore suggest that the transition to biodiversity-friendly farming may require additional public or private financial incentives.

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Why is it important?

The study quantified the ecological, agronomic, and net economic benefits of biodiversity-friendly farming. Such insight is highly needed in the context of experts increasingly advocating for biodiversity-friendly farming, but with very little known about its economic profitability for farmers. The findings highlight that profitability is a crucial constraint for the widespread adoption of biodiversity-based farming practices, increasing the need for economic rewards for farmers who engage in conservation management.


“Our results suggest that profitability may be a key constraint for the adoption of biodiversity-friendly farming. But apart from ecosystem services for the farmer, a biodiversity-friendly farming system also provides benefits for society, such as an attractive landscape, carbon storage and cleaner air and water. For the widespread adoption of biodiversity-friendly forms of agriculture, farmers should be rewarded financially through additional public or private funding.”

Jeroen Scheper
Wageningen Universiteit

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Biodiversity and pollination benefits trade off against profit in an intensive farming system, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2212124120.
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