Research finds ten times more pests in insecticide-treated corn fields

Research by a small team of US researchers, led by Jonathan G Lundgren, aimed to identify the benefits of regenerative farming. In particular they investigated the impact on natural pest management on corn production.

They found that, “Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide-treated corn fields than on insecticide-free regenerative farms”.

Lundgren said, “Most cropland in the United States is characterised by large monocultures, whose productivity is maintained through a strong reliance on costly tillage, external fertilisers, and pesticides.”

He said, “Development of synthetic fertilisers, hybrid crops, genetically modified crops, and policies that decouple farmer decisions from market demands all helped create a modern food production system which reduces the diversity of foods that are produced.

Regenerative farming systems provide greater ecosystem services and profitability for farmers than input-intensive farm systems.

In terms of corn production, Lundgren found that, “Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide-treated corn fields than on insecticide-free regenerative farms, indicating that farmers who proactively design pest-resilient food systems outperform farmers that react to pests chemically.”

In addition, while “Regenerative fields had 29% lower grain production,” they had, “78% higher profits over traditional corn production systems. Profit was positively correlated with the particulate organic matter of the soil, not yield.

Lundgren concluded, “Regenerative farms fundamentally challenge the current food production paradigm that maximizes gross profits at the expense of net gains for the farmer.

“By promoting soil biology and organic matter and biodiversity on their farms, regenerative farmers required fewer costly inputs like insecticides and fertilisers, and managed their pest populations more effectively.

“Soil organic matter was a more important driver of proximate farm profitability than yields were, in part because the regenerative farms marketed their products differently or had a diversified income stream from a single field.”

Read the research, Regenerative agriculture: merging farming and natural resource conservation profitably

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