Maintaining and improving the biodiversity of soil and water is one of the key principles of the EU regulations that govern organic farming.
In comparison to conventional farming, organic agriculture enhances biodiversity in many different ways. For example, organic farms are generally mixed, with both arable land and livestock, which diversifies the land use and encourages different species to flourish. Furthermore, organic farms are far more likely to house a greater variety of plants, insects and birds because of the reduced use of pesticides, which allows a wider range of wildlife to thrive.
Organic agriculture does not allow synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. To make up for this, organic farmers encourage natural predators to survive and multiply by leaving parts of their fields wild, rotating their crops and keeping hedgerows, all of which offer a diverse natural habitat for beneficial wildlife.
For example, there is growing concern in Europe about the declining number of honey bees, which may be partly due to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in conventional farming. Organic farms do not allow these pesticides, thereby offering honey bees a pesticide-free environment in which to forage.
Herbicides are also banned on organic farms, giving weeds more opportunity to grow, particularly around the margins of organic fields, providing a habitat for arthropods and insects, and consequently providing food for birds.
Organic agriculture uses manure and compost as fertiliser, which both contain a wide variety of microorganisms that help to break the soil down. This releases nutrients for the plants, and encourages the growth of these micro-organisms, which in turn diversifies the soil flora.
At a time when conventional farming is threatening wildlife, organic agriculture has proven that it can offer many species, from micro-organisms to mammals, an environment in which to thrive and multiply.