"Farmscaping" is a holistic approach to pest control on farms that focuses on increasing biodiversity in order to maintain healthy populations of beneficial insects, birds, bats, and other wildlife as part of an ecological pest management program.
Farmscaping often treats beneficial wildlife as a kind of "minature livestock" that must be managed and provided for for just like cows, sheep, chickens, and other farm animals. Farmscapers use observation and science to plan hedgerows, flower beds, cover crops, and water reservoirs to favor beneficial wildlife over pests.
Benefits of Farmscaping
Farmscaping reduces the need for pesticides, lowering costs and reducing exposure to potentially harmful chemicals by farmworkers and consumers.
Farmscaping is also simple and generally inexpensive to implement. In many areas, costs can be lowered even further by federal conservation incentives or cost-share programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.
Finally, in addition to the ecological and environmental benefits of providing habitat for wildlife and increasing biodiversity, farmscaping also increases natural beauty for resident humans. Farmscaping can also contribute to side businesses for farmers, including beekeeping, cut flowers, and fish farming.
Disadvantages of Farmscaping
Farmscaping requires more observation and management than conventional pest control in order to provide maximum benefits. Because it is more dependent on natural cycles, it will also be more effective in some years than others. Even in a successful farmscaping implementation, some experimentation can be expected to get the combination of plants and habitats exactly right. For these reasons, farmscaping is best used as one of several pest management strategies.
- Hedgerows containing a diverse (and preferably native) mix of shrubs, small trees, flowering plants, and grasses are one of the most common tools of farmscapers due to the high diversity they support. They are frequently planted along waterways and drainage channels to reduce erosion and filter pollutants from runoff, along property borders to provide privacy, along field edges to encourage pollinator activity on crops, and to create a safe pathway for wildlife between habitat zones. Some hedgerows can also be used as a natural fence for livestock.
- Much like hedgerows, flower gardens with a diverse mix of insectary plants (plants that attract insects) can be planted along field edges and other buffer zones in order to increase beneficial insect activity.
- Mulches, ground covers, and cover crops are best known for their soil improvement qualities, but many also attract beneficial insects such as ground beetles and spiders. A number of good cover crops are also insectary plants, including clover, mustard, and vetch.
- Woodlots and windbreaks offer shelter for birds and other wildlife, as well as wood for humans and increased energy efficiency for nearby buildings. Woodlots managed to increase mast production are especially beneficial.
- Artificial housing, including birdhouses, bat houses, and bee hives, improves habitat and housing options for a variety of beneficial wildlife.
- Water, particularly running water,attractsmany forms of wildlife, so farm ponds and streams can be managed to increase biodiversity by providing hedgerows or other habitat nearby.
- Farmscaping to Enhance Biological Control
This publication contains information about increasing and managing biodiversity on a farm to favor beneficial organisms, with emphasis on beneficial insects.
- Community Alliance with Family Farmers: Farmscaping
CAFF’s farmscaping programs assists growers and ranchers to plan and install hedgerows and other conservation plantings.
- Principles of Farmscaping
Farmscaping for Insect Management: Integrated Parasite/Predator/Pathogen Management & Strategies for Encouraging Beneficial Insects in the Field
- Farming for Bees
A Xerces Society publication on farmscaping, focusing on enhancing native bee habitat
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