Effects of Habitat Heterogeneity on Crop Yield and Biodiversity

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $24,971.90
Projected End Date: 07/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: 4W8088
Grant Recipient: Montana State University
Region: Western
State: Montana
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), peas (field, cowpeas), wheat
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: application rate management, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, forest/woodlot management, intercropping, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, drift/runoff buffers, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, hedges - grass, hedges - woody, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, traps, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, partnerships, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Agricultural ecosystems comprise roughly half of the global land surface and are faced with the competing tasks of feeding a growing population and conserving global biodiversity. Agriculture has often been viewed as a primary driver of habitat fragmentation and biodiversity loss, but recent studies have questioned the habitat-matrix paradigm with findings of positive relationships between landscape configurational heterogeneity and biodiversity in agricultural landscapes (12, 13, 14, 15, 16). Current research suggests the adoption of a mosaic landscape matrix paradigm, in which landscape heterogeneity enhances biodiversity with neutral or positive effects on crop yield. This study will use midfield islets to examine habitat heterogeneity and the effects on crop yield and biodiversity in farmland. Precision agriculture data can be used to create profit maps that enable farmers to identify low-producing areas in their fields that can be taken out of production to save time and money and create conservation habitat in the agricultural ecosystem. We will quantify the effects of heterogeneity to determine if it provides benefits to farmers such as enhanced biodiversity, ecosystem functions and farm productivity in our agroecosystems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    My goal is to quantify the agronomic, economic and biodiversity impacts of midfield islets (refugia) in dryland small grain production region of the Northern Great Plain (NGP). Specifically, I will quantify the effects of habitat heterogeneity on yield and biodiversity in production fields.

    1. Quantify what costs and benefits midfield islets bring to farm production. We aim to determine if midfield islets affect agricultural production by looking for significant differences in crop yield and crop quality between homogeneous and heterogeneous fields and landscapes.
    2. Determine the tradeoff between ecosystem services and disservices that midfield islets create for producers. We aim to determine if midfield islets affect ecosystem resilience by looking for significant differences in pollinator, parasitoid, bird and small mammal populations, plant species richness, and pest and weed predation between homogeneous and heterogeneous fields.
    3. Share findings of on-farm experimentation through farmer-to-farmer networks, evaluate producers’ attitudes towards biodiverse farming methods and identify barriers to producer adoption.
    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.