On September 16, the Ontario Biodiversity Council’s 2021 Ontario Biodiversity Summit hosted a session entitled “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Within Agriculture”. The session was hosted by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)’s Vice President, Mark Reusser, who welcomed audience members and opened the session by introducing the role agriculture plays in protecting and promoting biodiversity. Biodiversity is typically looked at in the context of the natural landscape- bush, wetlands, rivers, lakes, grasslands or wildlands- but agricultural food production covers the majority of the landscape in many areas of the world. Not only does agriculture play a critical role in preserving and promoting biodiversity, but biodiversity is also fundamental to a healthy and sustainable environment and to a sustainable future for agriculture. Mark introduced the keynote speaker, Mike Swidersky, who discussed his experience in improving resilience and biodiversity on his farm and in his community. Mike showcased that farmers and their farms have a critical role to play in maintaining healthy agricultural ecosystems and that even small changes in on-farm practices can yield huge improvements. Practices such as using livestock to graze crops and control weeds, multi-species grazing, maintaining grasslands; these practices all make a vast difference.
Afterwards, Danie Glanc, Farm Policy Analyst with the OFA moderated panel presentations focusing on Best Management Practices and Future Opportunities for Mainstreaming Biodiversity Within Agriculture. Maria Ramirez Giraldo, Programs Analyst with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, spoke to the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and its Role in the Conservation of Biodiversity. The EFP program plays a critical role in the conservation of biodiversity on-farm and works to balance social and economical demands. Nigel Raine, professor, and Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at the University of Guelph spoke about Pollinator-Friendly Agricultural Practices, and why practices supporting pollinators and pollination services is critical for agriculture, biodiversity and the world. Mike Buttenham, Sustainability and Environment Lead for Grain Farmers of Ontario spoke on Sustainable Market Drivers- What Do They Mean for Biodiversity on the Farm. The presentation emphasized the importance of ensuring the production of quality agricultural products to meet a growing population, while still ensuring efficient habitat for biodiversity. Lastly, Lara Ellis, Senior Vice-President of Policy and Partnership of ALUS spoke on Enabling Community-Developed and Farmer-Led Biodiversity Restoration and highlighted how ALUS is playing a fundamental role in this sphere.
The session closed with some important takeaways from the session’s theme: Agriculture plays a fundamental role in everyone’s life- from the food we eat to the products we buy. It provides the food we eat, raw materials for goods such as clothing, shelter, and fuel, and provides incomes and livelihoods for many individuals and families. And at the basis of all that, is biodiversity. Maintaining biodiversity on-farm is of critical importance- crops, plants, livestock, insects, water systems, soils and natural landscapes all interact with and depend on each other. If the balance of these factors is carefully maintained, they function together to the benefit of agriculture. If the balance isn’t maintained, it threatens the integrity and sustainability of our agricultural industry. Without biodiversity, we have no food or environmental security. Managing agricultural systems and their associated landscapes in a sustainable manner that preserves and promotes biodiversity will produce lasting economic and social benefits and will ensure future generations have access to these important resources.
For more information on this, and upcoming sessions for the rest of the 2021 Ontario Biodiversity Summit, please visit http://ontariobiodiversitycouncil.ca/summit/. Recordings of the sessions can be found online at http://ontariobiodiversitycouncil.ca/summitarchive/ in the near future.