Collaborative Approaches to Increase the Integration of Functional Agricultural Biodiversity in Western Farming Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $67,699.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Gwendolyn Ellen
Agricultural Biodiversity Consulting

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: buckwheat, clovers, grass (misc. perennial), mustard, potatoes, radish (oilseed, daikon, forage), rye, spelt, sunflower, vetches, wheat, spelt and other specialty grains
  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (strawberries), cherries, grapes, melons, pears
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: native plants, trees
  • Animals: bees, beneficial insects such as generalist predators and parasitoids that prey upon crop pests


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping, catch crops, conservation tillage, continuous cropping, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, fallow, intercropping, irrigation, multiple cropping, no-till, nurseries, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health, row covers (for season extension), stubble mulching, varieties and cultivars, water management, windbreaks, habitat enhancements for beneficial insects such as insectary plant strips in crops, field edge management, hedgerows, beetlebanks and conservation of ecosystem remnants such as riparian areas or upland savannas
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, apprentice/intern training, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, financial management, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation, biodiversity, drift/runoff buffers, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, hedges - grass, hedges - woody, indicators, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, strip cropping, wetlands, wildlife
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, cultivation, cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, flame, integrated pest management, mating disruption, mulches - general, mulching - vegetative, mulching - plastic, physical control, prevention, row covers (for pests), sanitation, smother crops, soil solarization, trap crops
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture, organic certification, permaculture, transitioning to organic, transitioning to less pesticide use
  • Soil Management: composting, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health, toxic status mitigation
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, community services, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, quality of life, social capital, social networks, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, values-based supply chains


    The concept of functional agricultural biodiversity (FAB) embraces a variety of living organisms with beneficial roles on farms and adjacent lands, and the habitats supplying resources that support them. FAB management practices sustain the flow of ecosystem services within farming systems.  Teaching farmers FAB practices can help restore important ecological services which include biological crop pest suppression, crop pollination, and increased soil and watershed health.  Implementing FAB practices such as establishing in-field and farm margin insectary plantings and hedgerows can reduce production costs, raise or stabilize yields, increase biological pest management, enable cost-effective compliance with environmental regulations and farm bill conservation programs, and provide access to markets that require biodiversity-friendly production.

    Despite these potential advantages, the Western Region FAB Work Group 2012 needs assessment identified the following impediments to FAB implementation by farmers across the western region (ID, OR,WA and CA): a lack of appropriately localized knowledge, poor continuity in programs, and limited flow of information and feedback among diverse institutional and farm stakeholders.

    The FAB Work Group, founded in 2007, has developed a collaborative network of professionals to address the impediments to FAB research and adoption of conservation biological pest management practices in Oregon (OR), Idaho (ID), Washington (WA) and California (CA).  Our mission is 1) to foster regionally-relevant communication, FAB research and outreach 2) to preserve and enhance crop pollination by native pollinators, management of pests by predators, parasitoids and pathogens and 3) to promote the interlinking positive aspects of functional agricultural biodiversity in forest, rangeland, and farms.   This is the report of our second year of a SARE PDP project to increase the integration of FAB practices into western farming systems using a highly collaborative, network advocacy approach.  This approach uses local experts and farmers as teachers, working farms as classrooms and established networks and collaborative events as platforms for increasing knowledge and technical skills in the adoption of agricultural conservation practices.

    Project objectives:

    To develop and conduct a summer 2016, on-farm Habitat Establishment Field Course to increase technical skills in establishing on-farm habitat in the chosen pilot state for farmers, extension researchers, crop consultants, sustainable agriculture organizations and conservationists, and to provide training in developing a local FAB network. The Work Group chose an Oregon commercial farm to highlight, crop-specific, local, agricultural conservation practices that promote functional agricultural biodiversity.

    To develop a tool to evaluate, analyze and map the geographical and sociological scope of our state and regional networks and their effectiveness in influencing the adoption of FAB practices, and farmers’ perception of FAB. The network survey and analysis involves the FAB Work Group network with its members from Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho as well as the participants of other project activities described below. Data collection will occur throughout the project and a report will be compiled and disseminated in 2018. Qualitative and quantitative post-event, IRB approved, evaluations will also be conducted at the other project activities described below and incorporated into the project on an ongoing basis.

    To develop the first ever, Western Functional Agricultural Biodiversity Summit in Portland, Oregon in March 2017 with farmers, conservationists and researchers as co-presenters.  The Summit’s target audience was farmers and those who support farmers (such as NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation District, Resource Conservation District and university extension personnel and industry consultants). Its purpose is to inform participants of current on-the-ground practices and research projects being done throughout the western region, teach implementation of conservation practices and habitat establishment and provide trainings for strengthening local FAB networks and resources. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.