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Biodiversity and productivity in agriculture

Concerns exist about the rapid decline of biodiversity in agroecosystems. However, we need arable land and the related landscapes to cover a high percentage of basic food supply in our society. Contrary to feed production in grasslands, arable crops need to develop specified harvestable organs before harvest is possible. Thus, the cultivation of crops in pure stands allows farmers not only to implement supporting production measures but also to reach the highest possible level of the realizable yield potential. In the search for sustainable tradeoffs between productivity and biodiversity, all levels of biodiversity must be considered: the crop variety, the field, the field borders, and the landscape. Genetic diversity within variety and species can help minimize the need for plant protection and increase the yield. However, current land use systems limit the potential to maintain the species richness at the level of premodern agriculture. Options were recognized and translated into public programs for a targeted support of biodiversity at the levels of field borders and landscapes. New approaches to agriculture have to be based on knowledge generated in socioeconomy and natural sciences and require a rethinking in our society. Only with the latter can we implement new rules that will increase our primary production, promote ecosystems with high self-regulatory potential, and create sustainable farming-dominated landscapes.

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