As a new report is published, BBSRC’s Adam Staines discusses the complex issues surrounding antibiotic use in the food chain.
Despite lots of wider media coverage in the last year on antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance many people are still asking basic questions about what resistance is, what is resistant to what, and why should I really care?
Any societal complacency over the importance of antimicrobial drugs is actually a testament to their success. Many of the diseases that ravaged us and our livestock industries for centuries until Alexander Fleming and penicillin came along have been so successfully controlled we no longer fear them, or even recognise the names. (The leading causes of human death in 1900 were bacterial infections causing pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea and enteritis.)
Continue reading Antimicrobials in agriculture
A new network helps researchers get their hands dirty. The Soil Association’s Tom MacMillan explains how you can get involved.
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.
Continue reading Meet the Innovative Farmers
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.
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
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.
Continue reading Temperate times: a new research collaboration
Synthetic biology can help us to secure a sustainable food supply. Huw Jones of Rothamsted Research explains all.
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.
Continue reading Building better crops from the bottom up
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.
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.
Continue reading What if we grew GM crops in Britain?
What can seasonal forecasts bring to agriculture and food security? Pete Falloon of the Met Office predicts progress.
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.
Continue reading Don’t blame it on the weatherman
The United Nations has dedicated this year to a well-known substance that has incredible properties. The Soil Association’s Louise Payton digs deep.
It can support buildings, filter and store billions of tonnes of water, provides a home for a quarter (PDF) of all species on earth, and is used to produce around 95% of our food. It’s soil, and this is the International Year of Soils.
The reason for this grand title is the need for food security debates to better recognise soil. Soil isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about food security, but incredibly, 25% of agricultural soils (PDF) are severely degraded.
Continue reading The challenge of soil
Agricultural scientist Andy Whitmore from Rothamsted Research introduces a new network for scientists working on sustainable intensification.
The sustainable, secure and resilient production of food to feed our growing population in the face of environmental change is one of the most pressing problems of our age. And in keeping with other major scientific endeavours such as the search for the Higg’s Boson or deciphering the human genome, it requires a huge, concerted effort from the world’s scientists.
Following World Water day, three new reports on water use are launched by the Global Food Security programme. GFS Science Writer Theresa Meacham pours over the results.
After land, water is the most important resource for farmers. Agriculture accounts for 75% of global fresh water extraction, yet it is often taken for granted. Irrigating land, mixing liquid fertilisers and sprays, providing drinking water for livestock, and washing down and cleaning equipment all require water.
Increasingly water is being recognised as a critical resource under threat.
Continue reading Facing the future: water and agriculture