New Research Collaboration Takes Action to Restore Biodiversity and Increase Resilience in Agriculture Systems

Bayer, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and ETH Zurich (ETH) join forces to develop nature-based solutions that counteract biodiversity loss on farms.
May 17, 2021 9:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2021 /3BL Media/  – Today, Bayer, IFPRI and ETH announce a research collaboration to address how agriculture can develop and implement new solutions to reduce its impact on biodiversity. The partnership marks the first with a global scale and a special focus on broad acre crops like wheat, corn and soybeans, grown in simplified agricultural landscapes such as in the US Midwest.

Biodiversity loss has increased alarmingly in the past several decades. In agriculture, this is primarily attributed to land use change, deforestation, climate change, some crop management practices and pollution. The challenge is how to safely feed a growing population while preserving natural resources and reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment.

One way to address biodiversity loss is to shift toward approaches to food production that allow to maintain and support biodiversity such as the conservation of habitats in the agricultural landscape. This involves rethinking the way farmers grow certain crops to restore biodiversity on farms, and also at landscape scales. This could involve embracing and adopting new technologies and innovations within agriculture, and developing new business models that help farmers gain value from biodiversity positive farming.

“Agriculture accounts for forty percent of the world’s land surface, and is therefore in a prime position to play a role in restoring much of the biodiversity we have lost,” said Jaboury Ghazoul, professor of Ecosystem Management at ETH Zurich. “To do so, we scientists need to work closely with farmers, policy makers and the agriculture industry to develop new farming approaches that deliver environmental benefits while maintaining quality food production and viable incomes to farming communities.”

Sustainable innovations and new business models will empower farmers to achieve this balance, which is why Bayer, IFPRI and ETH are committed to developing the right solutions that will help farm operations thrive together with biodiverse ecosystems.

Over the next several months, the first phase of the partnership will begin with interactive farmer engagement that will examine current challenges and risks farmers face to help inform and validate the identification of potential scalable solutions and business models. Overall, the research collaboration consists of six components:

  • Continuous farmer engagement to test and validate the ability to implement the scientific findings
  • Development of a framework to assess how agriculture practices affect environmental sustainability, as well as the costs and constraints of farming practices that support biodiversity
  • Review the benefits and trade-offs of proposed solutions from conservation, agronomic, and farmer acceptability perspectives
  • Explore technical innovations as enablers of habitat conservation measures.
  • Assess spatial distributions and patterns of crop production to identify hot spots of simplified cropping systems
  • Creation of outreach materials readily accessible to farmers, policy makers, and other relevant agencies

“Biodiversity is critical to the ecosystem services that we all rely on for our health, our livelihoods, and even our spiritual wellbeing,” said Wei Zhang, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI. “Supporting these ecosystem services and producing enough healthy food to feed growing global populations requires this sort of collaborative, evidence-based approach that considers how we improve agricultulral systems to the benefit of farmers, consumers, and our environment.”

Led by ETH and IFPRI, the consortium consists of a number of research partners from the four countries in focus: Iowa State University (USA), University of São Paulo (Brazil), INRA (France) and ZALF (Germany), as well as scientific partners at University of Maryland and University of Queensland. The collaboration will leverage its scientific and farmer networks and tap into its comprehensive research, insights and experiences in the field of biodiversity and agriculture.

“Farmers can lead the way toward a biodiversity-positive future for agriculture through collaborative contributions to innovation, enabling policies and business models that pay farmers for ecosystem services,” said Sara Boettiger, Head of Public Affairs, Science & Sustainability for the Crop Science division of Bayer. “We are excited to contribute to this partnership to help lay the groundwork for a science-based approach to rethinking agriculture and biodiversity.”

Bayer is the primary funder of this research collaboration. Learn more about these efforts here.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. It is a research center of CGIAR, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development. Visit Follow: @IFPRI


Media Contact: Drew Sample, IFPRI Media Engagment Manager, D.Sample@Cgiar.Org, +1-202-549-5920