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Can Sustainable Intensification Feed the World?
2012-06-20

With world population set to rise by almost 50% to at least 9.5bn by 2050 and greater global wealth creating a universally bigger appetite for food, there has never been greater pressure put on our capacity to feed ourselves. The challenge is magnified by climate change and the ever increasing demand on finite resources of land and fresh water.

Professor Ian Crute

Professor Ian Crute

Grasping this titanic problem, one of the UK’s leading agricultural scientists today renewed calls for UK farming to embrace the concept of ‘sustainable intensification,’ a likely answer to meeting the primary challenge of the gathering ‘perfect storm’: How to increase production without cultivating more land, while reversing adverse environmental impacts.

Professor Ian Crute, Chief Scientist at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), addressed farming industry leaders at a Centre for Contemporary Agriculture event in Cambridge, today.

He issued the challenge that the appreciation and commitment to sustainable intensification as a route to increasing productivity, reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and contributing to the conservation of biodiversity is nothing like as great as it should be.

“I’m keen to talk about this concept because it sets the direction for much investment in research, knowledge exchange, on-farm experimentation and better understanding of the importance of soil management, for example, that’s going to be needed if we’re to get to grips with future issues in food and farming,” says Professor Crute.

“The challenge is so vast and so immediate that we have to confront it now, opening our minds to all possible solutions and experimentation, while finding the financial backing required to create the knowledge and change we’ll have to take on,” he adds.

In presenting sustainable intensification as the greenest as well as the most profitable way to farm, Professor Crute will suggest that efficient land use and management, plus the use of knowledge and technology to protect crop and animal health and avoid waste, will have a major impact on net GHGs and other measures of sustainability.

Professor Crute was speaking at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), Huntingdon Road, Cambridge on Tuesday 19 June (10.00am).

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