Shrubby Hedgerows and Edge Habitat Increase Pest Control by Birds
Tom has installed hedgerows throughout the farm in order to bring more native habitat into his fields. This practice brings beneficial birds and insects to the places where he needs their services the most. Initially, he was worried that with so much wildlife close to the crops there would be damage. But he has not seen that happen; rather, he recognizes that the birds are doing more good than harm, protecting his crops from pest insects.
Megan Garfinkel, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois Chicago, has studied how habitat on the edges of agriculture fields affects pest control services by birds. What she found is that no matter if the situation is a coffee farm surrounded by forest fragments, a corn and soybean field surrounded by grasslands, or row crops with hedgerows, the pattern is the same. The habitat at the edges and on the field margins increases the probability that farmers will see pest control by birds.
Her advice to farmers is to find a place to start that makes sense for the farm – keep remnant habitat on the field edges instead of clearing it out, plant native shrubs and hedgerows along the edges of and into your fields, and put up nest boxes and perches. Bringing birds closer to the fields where they can provide important pest control services is a win-win for the farms and the birds.
You can watch other Wild Farm Alliance videos and learn more on WFA’s Beneficial Birds Multimedia Story Platform.
Jo Ann Baumgartner is executive director of Wild Farm Alliance. She is the co-author of Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds and of Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide. Jo Ann co-edited, with Dan Imhoff, Farming and the Fate of Wild Nature: Essays in Conservation-Based Agriculture. Before joining WFA in 2001, she worked for other sustainable agricultural nonprofits, was senior researcher for a book of California’s rare wildlife species, and was an organic farmer for over a decade. She has a keen interest in the conservation of native species for their own sake, and the connections between farms and the larger ecosystem.