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U.S. farmers are growing fewer types of crops than they were 34 years ago, which could have implications for how farms fare as changes to the climate evolve, according to a large-scale study by Kansas State University, North Dakota State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Croplands comprise about 22 percent of the total land base in the lower 48 states, so changes in crop species diversity could have a substantial impact, not only on agroecosystem function, but also the function of surrounding natural and urban areas. Because croplands are typically replanted annually, theoretically crop species diversity can change fairly rapidly. There is the potential for swift positive change, unlike in natural ecosystems.
“At the very simplistic level,” says Jonathan Aguilar, lead researcher on the study, “crop diversity is a measure of how many crops in an area could possibly work together to resist, address and adjust to potential widespread crop failures, including natural problems such as pests and diseases, weed pressures, droughts and flood events… Just like in the natural landscape, areas with high diversity tend to be more resilient to external pressures than are areas with low diversity. In other words, diversity provides stability in an area to assure food sustainability.”
The study is the first to quantify crop species diversity in the U.S. using an extensive database over a relatively long period of analysis, Aguilar said.
Read full, original post: Sweeping study of US farm data shows loss of crop diversity the past 34 years