Jennifer Monge manages the B Jimenez farm in northern Costa Rica. She says keeping half the land in forest provides a natural pest barrier as well as creates a cooler microclimate which protects the pineapples from heat waves and drought.
Jennifer Monge manages the B Jimenez farm in northern Costa Rica. She says keeping half the land in forest provides a natural pest barrier as well as creates a cooler microclimate which protects the pineapples from heat waves and drought.

In Costa Rica, birds, bats and bees serve vital roles in controlling pests and pollinating crops. Now, researchers are measuring the contributions of these critters to encourage farmers to move away from the single-crop model and toward biodiversity.

In the next installment of the “Food for 9 Billion” series airing Monday on the PBS NewsHour, Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions visits the central American country to report on one such biodiversity push.

Farmer Ademar Serrano Abarca, 65, has devoted a quarter of his land to forest, and grows coffee and more than 15 different food crops on the rest. He says pest infestations are drastically lower on his land
Farmer Ademar Serrano Abarca, 65, has devoted a quarter of his land to forest, and grows coffee and more than 15 different food crops on the rest. He says pest infestations are drastically lower on his land
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Low intensity farmland near San Vito, Costa Rica, where as much as a third of the land consists of forest fragments, directly integrating biodiversity and its services into food production. Farmers in Costa Rica are encouraged to set aside part of their land from production to help maintain biodiversity and prevent deforestation.

A typical farm in Costa Rica grows coffee and other crops, such as corn, beans and bananas. But when Ademar Serrano Abarca purchased his land 10 years ago, he did something unusual at the time. Instead of clearing all of the trees, he set aside more than a quarter of the property to let the forest regenerate, according to Eaton’s report.

Costa Rica compensates farmers for keeping part of their land out of production, but researchers with the Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica’s southern Puntarenas province and Stanford University’s Center for Conservation Biology found that farmers benefit in other ways as well. Birds, such as the Rufous-Capped Warbler, have a voracious appetite for insects that damage coffee plants. Bats do their part at night, eating bugs and spreading seeds, while native bees are helping with pollination.

Bats also do their part for insect control. They consume pests, carry pollen and scatter seeds throughout the night.
Bats also do their part for insect control. They consume pests, carry pollen and scatter seeds throughout the night.

“Not all of us share these same ideas,” said Abarca of setting aside part of his land. “Other farmers don’t have this, they’ve lost it. But for me, it’s a gain. Everything you see here is a gain for me.”

Source: PBS.org


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