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What is Crop Diversity and Why It's So Important
Crop diversity is a tenet of sustainable agriculture.
The term crop diversity refers to both the planting of different crops (planting carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and beans on the same farm), as well as planting different varieties of one crop (planting many types of tomatoes). Crop diversity is important on the individual farm, as well as on national and global scales for two reasons: 1) the need for genetic diversity to protect the world’s food supply 2) the impact of biodiversity on the health of agricultural and nonagricultural ecosystems.
Healthy Ecosystems and Resilient Businesses
Crop diversity on the farm level improves soil health and quality, decreases non beneficial pest populations, encourages beneficial organisms and improves the economic resilience of farms. A farm that grows many crops, and many varieties within each crop, will have a resilient and healthier ecosystem more able to prevent and withstand issues that can result in crop loss and will have less of a dependence upon the synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that pollute our land and waterways. By growing more than one crop, i.e. producing more than one product, farms are better able to withstand the economic consequences of crop-specific failures or market fluctuations.
Global Food Supply
Crop diversity increases genetic diversity in our food supply. This is particularly important for crops that are responsible for significant amounts of the world’s food consumption. A lack of genetic diversity in an important crop means that there is a global dependence upon the one or two varieties that are produced at large scale. Crops with less genetic diversity are more susceptible to disease and other issues that can lead to crop failure. Our dependence upon these crops leaves our food supply more vulnerable, and the consequences of crop failure more diar.