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Diversity of markets adding life back into our environment

Organic farming adds life to the nation's agricultural livelihood, Biological Farmers of Australia Standards Chairman, Dr Andrew Monk said.

"As the drought continues to diminish Australian farm numbers, natural farming systems, rather than quick-fixes, should be the first and foremost focus of policy makers during these times."

Monk says biodiversity can reduce the vulnerability, and boost returns of crops, particularly during trying seasons. "Biodiversity makes for less rigid and more robust environments and that translates into more profitable crops and livestock," Monk said.

Monk says diversity on the land, in soils, predators and wildlife, also leads to diversity at the market level.

"Organic farmers are not only producers of sheep or grains — they might produce timber, manufacture natural oil, or harvest native flowers. Organics reaps the benefits of biodiversity, something consumers understand and support," he said.

Greg Paynter, workshop conductor for the Federal Government's Healthy Soils Program says there are also benefits in natural waste and water management systems.

"Organic matter assists in the retention of moisture in soils. That has a direct impact on how quickly farming lands can rebound following dry periods. Biodiversity actively increases soil health level,” Paynter said.

"Biodiversity in the Soil Food Web for building soil nutrition and producing stable humus is critical to help plants cope with moisture stress, soil diseases and insect attack. Humus holds 20 times its weight in water reducing the need for irrigation and reducing soil temperature fluctuations for optimising productive capacity," Paynter said.

Biodiversity management is a requirement for certified organic operations; using the ecosystem's functions to replace the need for farm inputs.

Non-organically managed farms, by contrast, typically generate lower biodiversity levels due to a focus on singular or mono-culture production.

A major global study* comparing organic and conventional agriculture in the UK has found organic farming increased biodiversity throughout the food chain. Studies have shown that growing organic can: — Increase species of flowering plants by 500% — Increase active levels of invertebrates (pest predators) by 160% — Increase levels of butterflies by 66% — Provide an area that attracts twice as many birds

Australia is currently one of the world's top 12 most 'megadiverse' countries but has a growing count of 623 threatened or endangered species.

For more information contact the Biological Farmers of Australia at www.bfa.com.au

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