I think you mean genetic diversity, which means having a larger variety of genes in a genetic pool, whereas biodiversity refers to a larger variety of species in an ecosystem or biome (or even on the planet). In response to your question, I don’t think pesticides would be as important as they are now if we had more genetic diversity in our crops. Each time a new disease or pest makes its way to a crop, the crop gets ravaged because each plant has the same genetic makeup, with no variations that could potentially resist the threats. In monocultures, the genetic uniformity of the crops prevents them from responding differently to environmental stresses, which is why pesticides have to be used so liberally to protect them.
According to Michael Pollen in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a higher level of biodiversity in crops helps maintain the fertility of the soil. If we didnt grow our crops in monocultures, they wouldn’t need such massive amounts of chemical fertilizers. These artificial fertilizers make the plants more attractive to insects and more vulnerable to disease, therefore requiring the use of chemical pesticides. Even if a disease or insect does infect one plant in a biodiverse crop, it has a much smaller effect, as it cannot harm the entire crop, especially if that one type of plant is spread out throughout the entire farm rather than in one place.
I highly recommend reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other books like it.
Biodiversity in crops is extremely important. Permaculture is a type of agriculture that mimics natural relations found in nature. A mix of plant species makes it more difficult for pests or weeds to infiltrate in comparison to a monocropping. Plants survive in nature without being plastered in chemicals, so wouldn’t they survive without chemical applications in crops that mimic nature? As far as genetic diversity goes, we are losing diversity in many species fast. The scary thing is that if you buy corn at your local grocery store, their is about a 1/4 chance it was grown from a Monsanto genetically modified seed. There are similar statistics with soybeans.
Resistance to chemical control is the result of diminishing biodiversity. When a few species dominate a landscape, and that landscape is being managed with the same application of the same chemicals, those species develop a tolerance to the pesticide (the gene pool develops such that a tolerant recessive gene becomes dominant), which often leads to more frequent applications. When a pesticide is eventually seen to be ineffective, another is chosen. Initially pest populations will be knocked down, but over time the same trend develops. If the landscape is diverse in species, a natural predator/prey balance eliminates the need for chemical control. Biodiversity is the best form of biological “control”.
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