Legume crops and biodiversity

Jens Dauber, George Everwand, Susannah Cass, Michael Williams and Jane Stout
Posted: 02.06.2021
Modern intensive cropping systems rely on simple cropping sequences, mineral fertilizers and chemical crop protection. This has led to a reduction of crop diversity, simplified landscapes and declines in biodiversity. However, even today in intensive farming systems, legume-supported cropping has the potential to deliver many ecosystem services, both directly due to unique trait combinations and indirectly via promoting biodiversity and by facilitating services such as pollination, pest control and soil improvement. This chapter outlines the effects of legume cropping on biodiversity, focusing on legume-specific traits and their interactions with agricultural management. Legumes have complex direct and indirect interactions with the surrounding agroecosystem and its management, so it is not possible to fully separate general crop management effects from effects of management that is specific to legume crops, and legume-trait effects. Legumes can benefit farmland biodiversity when included in highly productive cropping systems. Legume crops qualify for the ecological focus areas in ‘greening’ of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU). Several of the effects of legumes are related to changes in management practices, such as a reduced use of pesticides, fertilizer or soil tillage. Of course benefits for biodiversity may be also partially achieved by other crops and diversified crop rotations. However, legume traits and management practices vary at a species or even cultivar level and so here we provide a general overview of the effects on biodiversity.

This article is one out of 15 book chapters. All chapters of the book are available on the Hub.

Everwand, G., Cass, S., Dauber, J., Williams, M. and Jane Stout (2017). Legume crops and biodiversity. In: Murphy-Bokern, D., Stoddard, F. and Watson, C. (Eds.).  Legumes in cropping systems. CABI.

  • George Everwand, Susannah Cass, Michael Williams and Jane Stout
  • 2017
  • Modern intensive cropping systems rely on simple cropping sequences, mineral fertilizers and chemical crop protection. This has led to a reduction of crop diversity, simplified landscapes and declines in biodiversity. However, even today in intensive farming systems, legume-supported cropping has the potential to deliver many ecosystem services, both directly due to unique trait combinations and indirectly via promoting biodiversity and by facilitating services such as pollination, pest control and soil improvement. This chapter outlines the effects of legume cropping on biodiversity, focusing on legume-specific traits and their interactions with agricultural management. Legumes have complex direct and indirect interactions with the surrounding agroecosystem and its management, so it is not possible to fully separate general crop management effects from effects of management that is specific to legume crops, and legume-trait effects. Legumes can benefit farmland biodiversity when included in highly productive cropping systems. Legume crops qualify for the ecological focus areas in ‘greening’ of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU). Several of the effects of legumes are related to changes in management practices, such as a reduced use of pesticides, fertilizer or soil tillage. Of course benefits for biodiversity may be also partially achieved by other crops and diversified crop rotations. However, legume traits and management practices vary at a species or even cultivar level and so here we provide a general overview of the effects on biodiversity.

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    Legume crops and biodiversity
  • 2017. Legume crops and biodiversity. Legume Hub. https://www.legumehub.eu

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Authors: Jens Dauber, George Everwand, Susannah Cass, Michael Williams and Jane Stout
Acknowledgement: Legume Futures has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant No. 245216.

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