The growing demands for agricultural yields to secure the required food, fibre, and bioenergy leads to benefits for the involved stakeholders, but also environmental degradation. The trade-offs between socioeconomic and ecological factors are affected by climate change and are critical determinants of crop production strategies. For example, the choice of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides determines the amount of pests present in a system, resulting crop yields, but also the effect on biodiversity and ecosystem services. In the tropics, the expansion of cash crops like palm oil have led to significant debate about the benefits for smallholders and the substantial environmental degradations.
An emerging question is how human health is affected through decisions on agricultural production management. For example, emerging infectious diseases like dengue fever or avian influenza may be modified through managing landscapes for more biodiversity, which protects against disease transmission. Malnutrition can be mediated through diversified production and food sources. Targeting a key knowledge gap, the proposed project aims to understand the trade-offs between agricultural management and the effects on socio-economy, biodiversity, and human health in tropical cash crops to guide sustainable decision-making processes in agricultural landscapes.
To understand agricultural management effects on dengue prevalence, we will be monitoring different mosquito life stages and infection levels with ovi- and sticky traps and qPCR. To understand the effects on avian influenza, we will initially monitor changes in bird diversity and livestock interactions in the palm oil production landscapes and potentially screen for pathogenic viral strands. We will work with farmers to understand the effects of management on malnutrition. Questionnaire-based surveys and spatially explicit data will allow us to combine economic status of smallholder farmers, their food and food sources, and farmed crop diversity. The commonly used weight-for-height index can be used to identify malnutrition.
This project will allow us to quantify effects of agricultural management decisions on human and animal health. All analyses will be carried out on CRC plots and in collaboration with CRC990 farmers. The project results can, hence, be directly integrated into the overall outcomes of the CRC 990.