The French Livestock Institute (Institut de l'Elevage - Idele), in collaboration with its partners, has developed the BIOTEX®, a tool to measure and improve biodiversity on farms.

The usefulness of biodiversity in agricultural production has been demonstrated. Indeed, it contributes to the maintenance of soil fertility (role of earthworms), to pollination (role of insects), or to the quality of fodder production in natural grasslands (due to floristic diversity).

While many studies show that biodiversity is affected by agricultural practices, they also reveal the importance of landscape elements and their organization on the diversity of living beings. Thus, the agricultural specialization of certain regions has led to the simplification of territories (disappearance of hedges and groves, monoculture, etc.), with an increasingly distinct separation of crop areas and livestock areas. This landscape simplification has resulted in the disappearance of many species, and the modification of ecological balan

The BIOTEX method is an approach for assessing the Ordinary BIOdiversity of the Territory at the farm level.

This approach aims to be readable and understandable by the breeder. In addition, it must be applicable over a period of time less than half a day on the farm and half a day of work in the office.

It also takes into account the demand of farmers interviewed in the context of collective interviews. The breeders interviewed evoke the quality of their landscape and highlight the woods, rivers, meadows, hedges (or bocage) as well as the reliefs. They link these landscapes to agricultural activity, the maintenance of hedges being by far the action most cited by the breeders interviewed. The adaptation of mowing practices and the maintenance of meadows comes second. Other activities are also highlighted to a lesser extent: the maintenance of ponds and other wetlands, the limitation of inputs of fertilization and phytosanitary products, actions on cropping plans and rotations (source CASDAR INDIBIO 2014).

The BIOTEX approach was built for farmers and in order to highlight the need to take ordinary biodiversity into account in agroecological approaches.

Description of the innovation

The objective of the approach is to assess ordinary biodiversity at different scales, in a simple, rapid but rigorous manner. It integrates the components that interact on ordinary biodiversity and is based on the use of indirect indicators to respond to an educational logic. BIOTEX is based on several indirect factors stimulating ordinary biodiversity:

• The diversity of cultures forms an attractive mosaic of cultures for faunal species.
• The heterogeneity of a territory guarantees the diversity of species.
• The density of agro-ecological elements and landscape continuities signify the quality of habitats.
• The diversity of agro-ecological elements promotes fauna and flora diversity.
• Management practices of agro-ecological infrastructures to preserve their function of regulating the species hosted.
• The permanent grassland is an area of ecological regulation of the exploitation.
• The presence of sufficient biodiversity in the soil is linked to the rate of organic matter in the latter.
• The impacts of soybean production needed to feed livestock must be charged to the farm's balance sheet.

The evaluation of biodiversity is done using indirect indicators and variables that capture the state of biodiversity in the territory, farm or plot concerned.

(1) Use of agricultural land: The diversity of the occupation of agricultural land or the landscape mosaic brings resilience to the faunal species whose environment it is in the areas cultivated annually. Indeed, in arable environments, the greater the diversity of land cover, the greater the diversity of species inherent to each crop; this is the example of messicole birds. In addition, the effects linked to agricultural practices that are very aggressive towards the faunal species hosted are limited when the crop mosaic is diversified because the periods of intervention take place over different periods.

(2) Spatial organization of agroecological infrastructures (AEI) at the level of the agricultural landscape: Agroecological infrastructures are fixed elements of the landscape that are both useful and productive and which provide numerous services to agriculture and to humans. It is one of the main components of the landscape pattern. The diversity of flora and fauna species is highly dependent on the spatial organization and density of these elements. AEIs are places of refuge and propagation for species. They also play a functional role in the reproduction of auxiliaries, the regulation of the local climate, the flow of nitrogen and the regulation of floods. In addition, the AEIs play an essential role in the landscape typicality of the territories. Therefore, the presence of biodiversity in agricultural space is highly dependent on the density, diversity, quality and connectivity of AEIs. They are converted into so-called developed biodiversity surface in order to assess the accommodation capacity in terms of biodiversity surface equivalence. We are on the expression of the ability of the farm to reconcile production with ecological zones that mesh the plot of the farm.

(3) Habitat management: The ecological value of AEIs and plot borders is assessed on the basis of management and maintenance methods qualified as favorable or unfavorable to the habitat function. The inventory of AEIs distributed over the total area of the farm reflects the diversity of habitats. Indirectly, it expresses the potential diversity of hosted species. Farm buildings must be integrated into the landscape matrix. For example, AEIs connected near buildings allow the movement of faunal species, and these AEIs serve as habitat for many species.

(4) Crop management: The structure of the UAA influences the biodiversity potential of territories, either by providing spaces for ecological regulation such as permanent grasslands, or by modifying their spatial and temporal heterogeneity through the variety of crops. It is therefore important to know the part of the UAA occupied by permanent grasslands, the part devoted to crops and the number of species present in the rotations. To be more precise, it is also necessary to estimate the share of legumes in the SFP, because flowering plants are important food resources for wild pollinators. The presence of intermediate crops has many advantages for the soils of the plots. In addition, these crops serve as habitat for many species. Finally, cultural practices and in particular the use of pesticides impact the quality of the environments and therefore their biodiversity potential, it is therefore necessary to look at what part of the UAA receives phytosanitary products.

(5) Management of permanent grasslands: Grasslands are highlighted for their role in ecological regulation. They offer a perennial cover more conducive to biodiversity than crops, their potential for regulation is more or less strong depending on the management practices applied to them. Indeed, permanent grasslands are made up of many species, some of which have flowers (legumes, etc.). This floristic richness is on the one hand, an important and constant pantry for wild pollinators and on the other hand, the faunal species (insects) they host are very attractive for a whole procession of birds and chiroptera. In view of the importance they occupy in the UAA in France, it is essential to dwell on these practices in order to qualify this species regulation function that is attributed to permanent grassland.

(6) Soil fertility: The presence and quality of organic matter are essential to soil biodiversity. Carrying out an overall humic balance on the farm makes it possible to assess the optimization of inputs to meet the needs of the soil, and thus avoid pollution as much as possible. In addition, the insertion of multi-annual crops in the rotation makes it possible to take advantage of the ecosystem services provided by the biodiversity of the soil, while serving as a more permanent habitat for wildlife.

(7) Impact of imports: Many hectares of Amazon rainforest have been cleared to produce soybeans for import. This soya is massively used in French farms to feed livestock. Thus, it seems consistent to impute the impacts of this production to the structures that benefit from it. These impacts are the loss of habitat for many species as well as a strong decrease in biodiversity in the soils of these cleared areas, the forest areas being very rich in organic matter.

Impact on farm performance

Socio-economic resilience: The tool permit to identify some levers improving biodiversity and their contribution to farm economic is quantified. Some levers are a win win situation for the farmer, other are costly to implement.
Animal health and welfare: AH&W are not directly included in this tool but so far during the studies there is no trade off between measures to improve biodiversity and animal welfare
Production efficiency and meat quality:PE&MQ are not included in this method
Environmental sustainability: Together with the consultant, tailor-made biodiversity improvement measures are proposed in accordance to other environmental indicators such as GHG emissions, nutrients leachin. There is no trade-off between measures to improve biodiversity and other environmental indicators. 

Biotex, un outil pour comprendre la biodiversité des prairies (French)
Webinar: Assessing biodiversity on dairy farms: The Biotex tool (English)
Formation "La biodiversité dans les dystèmes d'élevage" (French)