How do you measure biodiversity on your farm, ranch, or in your garden? Are their species of birds or pollinators that you encourage and enjoy seeing whether you are on a tractor, walking your pastures, and working in your garden? As I was walking my neighbors’ farm lane one evening this past week, I was struck by the number of tree swallows and barn swallows hovering the corn field and adjoining orchard grass feasting on many flying insects. Similarly, I was heartened to see several monarch butterflies flying in our garden and around our front yard.
In promoting and advancing soil health, one of the four core soil health principles is energizing through diversity (i.e., maximizing biodiversity to encourage natural synergies and creative energy to improve the soil and farming system as a whole). Diversity should include the integration of crops, livestock, pollinators, natural resources, and enterprises for mutual benefits and functions. In John M. Marzluff’s recent book In Search of Meadowlarks: Birds, Farms, and Food in Harmony with Land, the author explores agriculture’s effects on and support of wildlife. He is specifically interested in the decline of meadowlarks and other species like bobolinks that used to be more prevalent. Marzluff, through interviews and in-depth research, seeks to answer the question of how birds, farms, and food production needs can better co-exist and be in harmony with the land.
As a steward and conservationist of natural resources on your farm or ranch, what indicators of sufficient diversity of crops, livestock, pollinators, natural resources, and enterprises do you use to know you are working more in harmonious balance with land and wildlife? What tools and strategies do you find most beneficial to energize your soil and farming system?
Marzluff, J.M. (2020). In Search of Meadowlarks: Birds, Farms, and Food in Harmony with Land. Yale University Press. Accessible at https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300237146/in-search-of-meadowlarks/