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Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering >> 2022, Volume 9, Issue 2 doi: 10.15302/J-FASE-2021437

HARNESSING ECOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES AND PHYSIOLOGIC MECHANISMS IN DIVERSIFYING AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABILITY: EXPERIENCE FROM STUDIES DEPLOYING NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS IN SCOTLAND

Ecological Sciences Department, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, DD2 5DA, UK

 

Available online:2022-04-26

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Abstract

To achieve the triple challenge of food security, reversing biodiversity declines plus mitigating and adapting to climate change, there is a drive to embed ecological principles into agricultural, value-chain practices and decision-making. By diversifying cropping systems at several scales there is potential to decrease reliance on inputs, provide resilience to abiotic and biotic stress, enhance plant, microbe and animal biodiversity, and mitigate against climate change. In this review we highlight the research performed in Scotland over the past 5 years into the impact of the use of ecological principles in agriculture on sustainability, resilience and provision of ecosystem functions. We demonstrate that diversification of the system can enhance ecosystem functions. Soil and plant management interventions, including nature-based solutions, can also enhance soil quality and utilization of legacy nutrients. Additionally, this is facilitated by greater reliance on soil biological processes and trophic interactions. We highlight the example of intercropping with legumes to deliver sustainability through ecological principles and use legumes as an exemplar of the innovation. We conclude that there are many effective interventions that can be made to deliver resilient, sustainable, and diverse agroecosystems for crop and food production, and these may be applicable in any agroecosystem.

 

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