Biodiversity: Why Is It So Important To Agriculture?

Sustainable agriculture both promotes and is enhanced by biodiversity.

The Earth functions like an incredibly complex machine, and there don't appear to be any unnecessary parts. Each species -- from the lowliest microbe to humans -- plays a part in keeping the planet running smoothly. Each part is related. If a lot of those parts suddenly vanish, then the machine that is Earth can't function properly.  

For example, the crops that we grow through our clever use of agriculture are enabled by the nitrogen present in the soil. This nitrogen nourishes and strengthens our crops. But where does it come from? Worms, bacteria and other life found within the soil love to decompose vegetation. When they eat, these organisms produce nitrogen as waste, which crops really love. This is also how nutrient-rich compost is made. If these bacteria species were killed off, then our crops would not grow properly.

We need to encourage natural relationships (among plants and animals) opposed to simplifying them. Producing lots of products from corn is an example of how humans have simplified the nutrient content we consume in most foods. While we know it is healthier to eat a wide range of whole food, people often don’t know how many products contain corn and that consuming a lot of one base product isn’t healthy in the long term.  Encouraging natural relationships will also manage pest, diseases, and weeds instead of controlling them with chemicals. For example: intercropping diverse plants and using cover crops on non-production fields on off seasons, integrating livestock (using chickens to fertilize and control bugs), enhance beneficial biota (in soils as well as insects) and recycle nutrients (manure, compost).

One way is just to think, for instance, of biodiversity. The extraordinary thing we now know, thanks to Crick and Watson’s discovery of DNA and the decoding of the human and other genomes, is that all life, everything, all the three million species of life and plant life—all have the same source. We all come from a single source. Everything that lives has its genetic code written in the same alphabet.” Jonathan Sacks

Our current food system doesn’t always produce the most diverse food as nature does. Chihuahuan Desert Charities makes sure to educate our students on agricultural biodiversity and how it provides humans with food and raw materials for goods - such as cotton for clothing, wood for shelter and fuel, plants and roots for medicines, and materials for biofuels - and with this comes farming incomes and livelihoods. Agricultural biodiversity also performs and enhances ecosystem services such as soil and water conservation, maintenance of soil fertility and biota, and pollination, all of which are essential to human survival.

Wendell Berry: Nature, Farming, Food

If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us."  David Suzuki

The DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program is a non-profit dedicated to regenerative organic agricultural practices to teach the benefits of land stewardship in the Paso del Norte Region. DYGUP, an acronym for Developing Youth from the Ground Up, is available to youth ages 14-17. The SUSTAIN program targets adults over 18 and combines "Roots Of Success" Environmental Literacy Curriculum with intensive farmer training. The DYGUP/ Sustain Program has many partnerships in the community including Taylor Hood Farms, Backyard  Farms LC, First Christian Church, and Las Cruces High-School. Chihuahuan Desert Charities is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for DYGUP & Sustain and support their important work in the Las Cruces community.

Support the DYGUP & Sustain Program at Legacy Farm in Las Cruces by visiting