Organic and biodynamic farming practices improve biodiversity

A study shows that organic and biodynamic farming practices contribute to soil and terrestrial biodiversity better than conventional farming practices. This study was commissioned by the Nordic alcohol monopolies and carried out by Ecogain AB.

Biodiversity and healthy soil are vital for agriculture. For example, they maintain harvest productivity, help to protect crops against pests and plant diseases, and enable nutrients to circulate.

The alcoholic beverage industry is wholly dependent on natural ecosystem services – without them, there would be a shortage of raw materials for the beverage industry. Healthy ecosystems and biodiversity make it possible to maintain ecosystem services in the long term.

Traditional, small-scale agriculture and viniculture have provided important habitats for many organisms. However, the expansion of arable land and the intensification of production lead to the weakening and fragmentation of species habitats and pose the major global threats to biodiversity and the soil.

Organic and biodynamic farming practices improve biodiversity

With respect to the farming practices, standards and certifications assessed in the study, organic and biodynamic farming are better than conventional alternatives from the perspective of both the soil and terrestrial biodiversity.

The results of different studies on the impacts of farming methods on biodiversity vary somewhat – these variations may be due to the use of agricultural chemicals prior to the transition to more natural farming. It can take over three decades for soil microbial activity to recover after the use of agricultural chemicals is discontinued.

Organic farming is sometimes associated with weaker harvest yields – and thus the environmental impacts per unit produced may be substantial. In fact, many studies recommend integrated farming, which utilises the best practices from both organic and conventional farming. This enables the reduction of environmental impacts without compromising on harvest yield.

Carbon farming is an emerging farming practice

The study highlighted carbon farming as a new farming practice that should be followed. Carbon farming refers to farming practices that sequestrate atmospheric carbon in the soil.

Carbon farming has attractive future prospects – a farming practice that binds carbon dioxide into the soil contributes to both mitigating the climate crisis and halting the weakening of biodiversity.

Background of the study

The study carried out by Ecogain AB aimed to increase understanding of the impacts of grape and cereal cultivation on biodiversity and soil health as well as to identify and analyse the most common farming certifications, standards and other sustainable farming practices. The study covered a total of 10 certifications, standards and farming methods.

The study was commissioned as part of the environmental cooperation of the Nordic alcohol monopolies. The theme of environmental cooperation in 2021 was biodiversity.

Read Ecogain AB’s report here (.pdf) >>

Article picture: Shutterstock

Terms used in the article

Biodiversity refers to the variety of species and habitats on Earth (source: WWF [in Finnish])

The nutrient cycle ensures that essential and beneficial nutrients circulate in the ecosystem without being wasted. Wasted nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen lead to the eutrophication of waterways and accelerate resource shortages. (Source: Sitra [in Finnish])

Ecosystem services refer to services and products provided by nature which are important or even essential for the wellbeing of human beings and society (source: The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) [in Finnish]).