The future of farming in the UK needs a united approach from government, researchers and industry to developing new knowledge and technologies, if it is to meet the challenges of the next two decades, a leading scientist has warned.
Professor Chris Pollock CBE, who drafted a study for four UK farming industry organisations, has recommended seven crucial research priorities for the future of food production in the UK.
The Emerging Findings of this study, Feeding the Future: Innovation Priorities for Primary Food Production in the UK to 2030, were launched for consultation at the Institute of Agricultural Management's national conference in London today.
"Ever since Malthus, concern has been expressed regarding the capacity of agriculture to feed an ever-increasing population," said Professor Pollock.
"In the first half of this century we will be part of a global food network that has to produce 50% more food with less available land. This work has been about what the industry said it needed, and how it could play its part in this global challenge."
The report recommends:
- A programme of long-term strategic and applied research
- Using modern technologies to improve precision and efficiency of agricultural management practices, like genetic and breeding programmes to increase productivity
- A united approach from government, research councils and producer groups to research and development, where primary producers are involved at a high level.
- Work to maintain major scientific research while identifying missing skills and knowledge and taking steps to replace them
- Government departments working together on issues which affect land use.
The study was commissioned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the National Farmers Union, the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and the Agricultural Industries Confederation, and supported by the Technology Strategy Board.
John Godfrey, Chair of AHDB said: "Last week in a speech to the Royal Society the Chancellor, George Osborne, challenged the scientific community of Britain to lead the world in agri-science.
"This report is designed to spell out the industry’s view on the research priorities for UK agriculture over the next two decades, and to act as a strategic guide for policy makers, funding providers and the industry.
“If we get this right, and we work together, then we will once again be a world leader in agri-science.
“Only by raising our industry’s productivity through sustainable intensification can we deliver the production levels that are needed. Only through science and innovation can we make this possible.”
Professor Pollock added: “We need to fund programmes for longer-term, applied research that link different sectors of industry.
“Food producers have tended in recent years to deal with today's problems. If we want to shift the research agenda to deliver for 2030, we need to make sure that primary producers work together and with the funders of more basic research."
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