HABITAT AND BIODIVERSITY

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service can help organic farmers work with nature instead of against it, building and conserving vital habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects, and wildlife.

“Diversity is the rule of the game now. We’ve got diverse people, flowers, plants, animals, you name it. Biodiversity, in my case, would mean that we try to mimic Mother Nature.”


GENE THORNTON
Certified Organic Farmer
Sneaky Crow Farm
Roanoke, GA

Conservation plantings such as field borders, hedgerows, and riparian buffers can help protect water and soil resources and provide wildlife and pollinator habitat. These may also harbor natural enemies of pests and intercept pesticide and GMO pollen drift from neighboring non-organic farms.

Wildlife corridors and wildlife-friendly fences maintain connectivity for wide-ranging wildlife, such as deer and predators, and keep them away from crops. Structures like owl and bat boxes create places for beneficial wildlife that reduce pests.

“The NRCS offers programs to assist farmers with everything from nutrient management to pest management, putting in the insectaries to help them with the pollinators. A lot of farmers don’t know that. The core is always going to be the conservation plan. We go out on the land and meet with the producer, identify any resource concerns, then find a program that helps accomplish the practices we see need to be done.”


GLENN L. RIEHLE
USDA-NRCS
Resource Conservationist
Paso, WA

NRCS can also provide assistance with biodiversity practices that include stream habitat restoration, tree and shrub establishment, wetland wildlife habitat management, prairie restoration, multispecies native perennials for biomass and wildlife habitat, riparian buffers, terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, and prescribed grazing management.

NRCS not only helps to create wildlife habitat on a farm-by-farm basis, but the agency also targets at-risk species on a landscape scale. Through Working Lands for Wildlife, NRCS works with partners and landowners to conserve targeted species in specific areas, realizing that many farmers and ranchers working together can make a difference.

NRCS can help farmers build soil fertility while becoming effective stewards of their land and water

DOWNLOAD THE "GROWING ORGANIC: HABITAT & BIODIVERSITY" EBOOK

THE USDA’S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE HELPS ORGANIC FARMERS WITH CONSERVATION PRACTICES THAT FOSTER CYCLING OF RESOURCES, PROMOTE ECOLOGICAL BALANCE AND PRESERVE BIODIVERSITY.

Organic systems seek to mirror nature by maintaining biodiversity on the farm and using methods that support the conservation of natural resources. Working with NRCS, farmers can improve water quality and enhance soil health without prohibited substances, through conservation management and land-use decisions that take into account that soil is a living organism with multiple beneficial functions.

“I am just mimicking Mother Nature.”

JAVIER ZAMORA
Certified Organic Farmer
JSM Organics
Aromas, CA

RIPARIAN BUFFER

Provides food, cover, and corridors for beneficial organisms, slows wind and water down for erosion control, provides groundwater recharge and provides protective filters against pesticide and genetic drift from non-organic neighbors.

BIODIVERSITY

The collective environment of cultivated and wild plants, animals and soil microorganisms that interact in mutually beneficial ways to create a balanced ecosystem.

BEE HIVE

Home for bees that provide valuable ecosystem services (1/3 of all fruits and vegetables and over 80% of all flowers require pollination). And, bees make honey!

 

BAT BOX

The collective environment of cultivated and wild plants, animals and soil microorganisms that interact in mutually beneficial ways to create a balanced ecosystem.

 

HOW CAN FARMERS IN DROUGHT-STRICKEN AREAS MAINTAIN WATER SECURITY AND MEET THEIR IRRIGATION DEMANDS WHILE PROTECTING FISH AT THE SAME TIME?

Fifth Crow Farm works with NRCS specialists to craft site-specific plans that pay careful consideration to fish and wildlife habitat and other biological resources. These plans allow the farm to draw water during off-peak hours, then store it onsite for later use. “Butano Creek is far from restored,” James says, “but we’re making some progress on water extraction issues by working with willing partners.”

              “This stream is the lifeblood of our farm.”


JOHN VARS
Certified Organic Farmer
Fifth Crow Farm
Pescadero, CA

FISH AND WILDLIFE HABITAT MANAGEMENT PLAN

An NRCS conservation plan can help farmers and ranchers manage their water use to protect anadromous fish populations as well as other downstream users. This is important to organic producers, because USDA Organic regulations require they maintain or improve natural resources and improve wildlife.

IRRIGATION WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN

Support from NRCS allows Fifth Crow Farm to establish a secure water supply for their USDA certified organic farm that also protects fish.

SUCTION HOSES pull water from the creek with FISH-FRIENDLY SCREENS buried PVC PIPE conveys water water pumped from Butano Creek in off-peak hours is stored in six 5,000-gallon WATER TANKS to ensure water availability can be time-shifted for peak hour use.

SMALL PUMP pulls water at a slower rate to fill the tanks overnight when energy costs are lower.

LARGE PUMP conveys water from the tanks at a higher rate for irrigation use throughout the day.

ELECTRIC PANEL programmed to regulate water use Variable Frequency Drives match different pump speeds depending on water requirements in the field; controlling pressure and flow greatly conserves energy and water use.

RISERS out in the fields for both drip and overhead irrigation.

INSTEAD OF PLANTING FENCE POST TO FENCE POST, THE USDA’S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE HELPS FARMERS WITH CONSERVATION TOOLS THAT BUILD HEALTHY SOILS WHILE ALSO PROVIDING CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS.

“We’re most proud of the progress we’ve made with this property in restoring the native habitat on the conservation easement area, the hedgerows, the riparian corridor, and the increased diversity in the plants and wildlife in the area. And we’re also proud that we were able to make a living from being organic and farming in a way we think has a positive effect on the land.”


JEANNE BRYNE
Certified Organic Farmer
High Ground Organics
Watsonville, CA

CONSERVATION CORRIDOR

Provides a safe habitat for wildlife to move through open agricultural land and acts as a buffer to slow and capture any sediment or nutrient-rich runoff.

NATIVE PERENNIALS

The collective environment of cultivated and wild plants, animals and soil microorganisms that interact in mutually beneficial ways to create a balanced ecosystem.

BUFFER STRIP

Slows runoff, reduces erosion and captures sediment and/or nutrients ensuring that waterways (like Harkins Slough) remain unpolluted.

THE USDA’S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE CAN HELP ORGANIC FARMERS CREATE HABITATS FOR BENEFICIAL INSECTS AND ORGANISMS THAT INCREASE BIODIVERSITY WITHOUT USING PESTICIDES.

Farmers may convert productive land into conservation areas that help reduce soil erosion and agricultural runoff, or even place insectaries along farm edges can provide habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects. These are just some of the critical biological tools farmers can use to control pests.

“When I had to use pesticides there was always that worry… but the way I am farming now feels pure, feels right.”


BRAD BAILIE
Certified Organic Farmer
Lenwood Farms
Near Connell, Washington

INSECTARY

An intentionally-managed farmscape that attracts beneficial insects and organisms to biologically control crop pests while increasing pollen and nectar sources for pollinators.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER (WHEN PLANTING AN INSECTARY)

Where do crop pests come from and how are they attracted to a crop?

What are these pests’ most important native predators and parasites?

Are critical resources (pollen, nectar, alternative hosts/prey) available to the beneficial insect at the right time?

Which annuals and perennials can compensate for critical gaps in this landscape?

SOME TYPES OF BENEFICIAL INSECTS

Lady beetles, ground beetles, syrphid flies, green lacewings, parasitic wasps and flies, praying mantis, predatory mites, and parasitic nematodes.

THE USDA’S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE CAN PROVIDE ORGANIC FARMERS WITH TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, INCLUDING GUIDANCE ON HOW TO TACKLE PESTS WITHOUT THE USE OF PESTICIDES.

The introduction of companion plants can disrupt the movement of pests from one plant to the next. Companion plants can also provide protective shelter, with taller plants giving shade to sun-sensitive shorter plants or serving as a windbreak. They can also create the opportunity to grow additional levels of crops in the same space, which may increases overall yields.

“What distinguishes an organic from a conventional farm is the things that you use and the things that you’re putting into the ground.”


MARK
Certified Organic Farmer
Crystal Organic Farm
Newborn, GA

COMPANION PLANTING

An agricultural practice whereby different crops are planted in close proximity, with the chemical defense systems of one plant used to assist another plant with pest control, provide habitat for beneficial creatures or help with pollination. Marigolds, for example, can be use to repel a variety of crop pests, including beetles, from eggplants.