• The Redesign of Sustainable Agricultural Crop Ecosystems by Increasing Natural Ecosystem Services Provided by Insects

    Astrid Jankielsohn

    ARC-Small Grains, Bethlehem, South Africa

    Abstract: Agriculture is the cornerstone of the South African economy and farmers must ensure that they produce enough to keep up with the needs of our growing population, within the limits of nature’s increasingly constrained and over-used resources. To meet this challenge successfully we need to change our food production systems to more sustainable systems. Natural ecosystems are resilient and able to survive extreme climatic changes because of the diversity in these systems. Conventional agriculture has decreased biodiversity on many different levels including plant genetic resources, insects, and soil organisms. Agrobiodiversity should be considered as the basis for redesigning sustainable agroecosystems by mimicking natural ecosystems, with insects providing ecosystem services. A deeper understanding of the mechanisms driving the relationships between crop diversity, beneficial insects, and pests or diseases will be needed in order to make cropping system diversification an effective and reliable tool. In terrestrial ecosystems, insects play key ecological roles and provide ecosystem services in diverse ecological processes. In order to redesign an ecosystem, we need to determine the different components in the system, their functions in the particular ecosystem, and the interaction between these components that is needed to benefit the ecosystem as a whole. We can then use this knowledge to create models for agricultural crop ecosystems that will be resilient enough to survive the challenges of a constantly changing environment.

    Keywords: Sustainability, crop ecosystems, resilience, agrobiodiversity, insects, ecosystem services.

    Pages: 365 – 381 | Full PDF Paper