Now is the time to build food security capacity, and there are funds to do it. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Christina Owen reports.
On the Agricultural Development team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re working hard to put ourselves out of a job.
The primary way to ensure this happens is for individual countries to develop and own their own sustainable agricultural systems, and to make them work for their farmers.
But what does this sustainability look like?
Continue reading Pay dirt: Growing sustainable agricultural development systems
Did we really run over our fields at random in 30 ton farming vehicles? Agri-consultant Tim Chamen wants to stop it happening now.
Speak to any experienced garden vegetable grower about the acceptability of running a car over their vegetable plot and I guess they would look at you in horror!
And yet this is what farmers worldwide have done with their machines for many years because of the difficulty of doing otherwise. As the drive for improved production efficiency has risen together with labour costs (PDF, 41pp), farm machines have increased dramatically in size and crucially in weight.
Continue reading Saving soil with intelligent machine use
Second call from Soil Association ‘field labs’ seeks food growers with innovative ideas to test. Tom MacMillan reports.
Back in April on this blog, I made the case that public funding for agricultural R&D should do more to support innovation by farmers.
The past few years have already seen welcome steps to help farmers become more vocal ‘research clients’, with the industry’s priorities increasingly reflected in the research agenda. But farmers are so much more than just clients, buying and using the bright ideas and technology that scientists have come up with. They have their own ideas; they develop and adapt techniques and technology, and many trial new approaches informally before they adopt them fully across their business.
Continue reading Farmers can be researchers too
Two new schemes from the Soil Association aim to put farmers at the forefront of research. Tom MacMillan reports.
There is hardly a year that starts without at least somebody at the Oxford Farming Conference lamenting the gulf between agricultural research and practice, and calling for it to be bridged. The difference this year is that these calls may now be getting some answers.
The past few months have seen an upsurge in efforts to address this gap including Feeding the Future, a review of research priorities for farmers and growers up to the year 2030 which was commissioned by four organisations at the heart of UK food production:
Continue reading Food producers: experts in their fields
All roads lead to Rome for the UN’s Committee on World Food Security. Morgane Danielou previews the action.
From 15-20 October, watchful eyes will be on Rome as the UN World Committee on Food Security (CFS) holds its annual session at the FAO headquarters. As an intergovernmental body, it serves as a forum for review and follow up of food security policies. Following a turbulent year for food security, in particular the US and African droughts, the CFS will look to address these crises, as well as long-term structural issues.
Continue reading Global food and agriculture takes centre stage
The UK Government has published recommendations that will shape policy and decisions well into the future. The Minister of State for Agriculture and Food tells us more.
How might we produce more food and improve our environment in the future? Not an easy exam question!
Some say the answer is sustainable intensification, but there is a lot of disagreement about what that might mean (see this blog post for more), particularly when you start talking about what it might mean in England.
Continue reading The Green Food Project
A view from the Brazilian agricultural frontier. John Lucas reports.
I’ve just got back from a five month stay in Brazil as a UK scientist working as part of the Embrapa Labex programme. Labex entails two main activities: a research project in collaboration with colleagues in the host organisation, and networking with potential research partners to identify joint research opportunities of strategic importance to both countries.
So, contrary to suggestions that I spent most of my time playing beach volleyball, cavorting with revellers at the Rio Carnaval, or communing with indigenous tribes in remote reaches of the Amazon
Continue reading Keeping science connected
Global leaders should not forget their promises on food security, says Robin Willoughby.
The November 2011 G20 meeting in Cannes last week, perhaps understandably, focused on addressing the eurozone crisis. However, behind the financial headlines lies a bigger crisis of global hunger and malnutrition.
The Horn of Africa famine has drawn heightened attention to the issues of food security and hunger, with many tens of thousands of people suffering from losses of food supplies and an inability to purchase food in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Continue reading G20 leaders – did they address the real crisis?
Agriculture needs to produce more food from less. Are ‘mega’ farms the answer, asks Becky Hothersall.
I research the health and welfare of chickens reared for meat, but last year I spent six weeks working with BBC Countryfile as part of the British Science Association’s Media Fellowship scheme for research scientists. At the BBC I had the chance to act as researcher and scientific adviser for a feature looking at the rise of huge indoor ‘mega’ dairies and pig farms in the United States.
The mega farm debate is highly polarised. I heard equally passionate arguments that mega farms pollute the environment and destroy rural communities, and from others who believe that they’re the only viable way to keep meat and dairy products affordable back here in Britain.
Continue reading Mega farms: yay or nay?
Iain Gordon reflects on a unique opportunity for Scottish science and enterprise as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
On 1 April 2011 Scotland became home to a brand new scientific research centre. The James Hutton Institute aims to be one of the world’s leading research institutes on land, crops, water and the environment and is the biggest, multi-disciplinary centre of its type in the UK.
Fittingly, its name has been taken from one of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, James Hutton (1726-97).
Continue reading A new institute to tackle food security challenges