Global Food Security blog

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Meet the Innovative Farmers

A new network helps researchers get their hands dirty. The Soil Association’s Tom MacMillan explains how you can get involved.

Tom MacMillan

What would agricultural R&D look like if farmers were in charge?

I’ve written for this blog before about the Duchy Future Farming Programme, which recognises and supports innovation by farmers. With three years of ‘field labs’ under our belts, involving more than 750 farmers and looking into 35 topics, we’ve just launched its next phase – a network called Innovative Farmers.
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The nitrogen crisis: what are the solutions?

An expert group gathers to discuss this elemental problem. The John Innes Centre’s Allan Downie reports on problems and progress.

Allan Downie

What is the nitrogen crisis? It is clear that we have introduced major global shifts in production and use of reactive nitrogen without really knowing what happens to the ammonia and nitrogen oxides released to the environment.

The production of nitrogen fertiliser and combustion of fossil fuels doubles the amount of reactive N entering the nitrogen cycle annually.
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Training female farmers to get the best from their land can reap benefits. IFDC’s former president Amit Roy makes the case for fertilisers and other innovations.

Amit Roy

By 2030, the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Africa is predicted to become a US $1 trillion industry. Farming has long been hailed as the engine of the African economy, and over the next 15 years it is going to need a jump-start if it is to feed the rocketing population, particularly in urban areas. Many factors will fuel this growth, but fertilizer is going to be critical.

Currently, 65 percent of land in Africa is degraded and lacking in the essential nutrients crops need to grow. Yet much of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa. Replenishing undernourished soils is a unique opportunity for African agricultural growth.
Continue reading If agriculture is Africa’s engine, let’s add fuel

Temperate times: a new research collaboration

Peter Gregory and Richard  McDowell

Peter Gregory from the University of Reading and Richard McDowell, Principal Scientist at AgResearch, introduce the new GFS-coordinated TempAg network.

The International Sustainable Temperate Agriculture (TempAg) Network was launched in April 2015 as an international research network that aims to deliver sustainable agricultural systems in temperate regions of the world.  After four years of preparatory work, we are delighted that our international research programme is now underway and linking scientists in the temperate regions of the world.
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How secure is India’s National Food Security Act?

Insights from a public food distribution system in Odisha, by Manoj Kumar Pati of the Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru.

Manoj Kumar Pati

Today, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world.

To secure food and mitigate hunger and malnutrition for a country of 1.22Bn people – the world’s second largest population – is an immensely complex and challenging job. However, the Government of India’s recent effort to mitigate hunger with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 is truly commendable, while acknowledging that many more things need to be done and the initiatives have to be self-sustained for a considerable time.
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How has the GFS programme made a difference?

What have we achieved so far? Head of the Global Food Security programme Riaz Bhunnoo takes stock of work to date.

Riaz Bhunnoo

As Charles Darwin reportedly once said, “in the history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed”. Even if he didn’t actually say it, collaboration is essential to meet the food security challenge, and it is therefore a central pillar of the Global Food Security (GFS) programme. So what has GFS achieved to date?

To answer this question, we need to think about what GFS was set up to do – in brief, improve coordination and collaboration on food security research across the public sector.
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Building better crops from the bottom up

Synthetic biology can help us to secure a sustainable food supply. Huw Jones of Rothamsted Research explains all.

Huw Jones

In the same way that Alec Issigonis first conceptualised, drew and then built the iconic Mini, I predict it will not be long before crop plants are designed and built, bottom up, using the principles of synthetic biology.

Plant breeding using classical, top-down or forward genetic approaches has served us well in the millennia since people settled in agricultural communities and started crossing plants, selecting individuals with traits that made farming easier and the edible parts more nutritious.
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Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton summarises specially commissioned GFS reports on the topic.

Tim Benton

Rarely a week goes by without there being news of weather records being broken.

We have recently had the hottest June recorded across four continents. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) trumpeted that in a single week in February 2185 local weather records were broken as an unmoving ridge of high pressure kept the US west coast unseasonably hot, and the east coast unseasonably cold.
Continue reading Future shocks: how resilient is the UK food system to extreme global weather events?

What if we grew GM crops in Britain?

It’s time to re-evaluate the impacts of the potential cultivation of GM crops in UK agriculture, says policy researcher at ADAS Carla Turner.

Carla Turner

Genetic modification (GM) in crops has been on the political agenda since their emergence in the 1980s and the first commercially available GM crop approved for cultivation in 1994.

Within the European Union (EU) there has been a precautionary approach to the commercial cultivation of GM crops with stringent approvals legislation.
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Don’t blame it on the weatherman

What can seasonal forecasts bring to agriculture and food security? Pete Falloon of the Met Office predicts progress.

Pete Falloon

They say it often pays to look ahead. Farmers have been doing just that for thousands of years, searching for the signals or patterns that might tell them the best time to sow seeds, or seek shelter for their animals.

Here in the 21st century, our desire to predict the weather is no less diminished. Now we are developing the tools, technology and models to make better predictions, not just a few days ahead, but to cover whole growing seasons and climactic events.
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