Agriculture accounts for around 70% of the UK land area. It plays an essential role in the rural economy not only through the production of food and other agricultural outputs, but in the delivery of a wide range of additional ecosystem services and environmental outcomes. These include the provision of clean water, the regulation of air quality, flooding, climate and nutrient cycles, biodiversity, cultural, aesthetic and recreational value.
In addition, the global food supply system faces an unprecedented challenge to feed a growing global population and food security is firmly on the political agenda. UN projections of population growth indicate that the global food supply system will have to feed between nine and ten billion people by 2050 and, furthermore, the world’s population is expected to continue growing during the second half of the century.
The challenge for the agricultural sector is therefore one of sustainable intensification. This means increasing food production while simultaneously reducing environmental impacts and enhancing the wide range of interlinked ecosystem services that society needs from land. The UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has sought to address this challenge by investing £4 million of research through the Sustainable Intensification Research Platform (SIP) which is due to be concluded in November 2017. This conference will explore the outcomes of SIP and other relevant research.
Rob Carlton, Naomi Jones, Stuart Knight, Adelia de Paula, Jennifer Preston, Siobhan Sherry, Kate Smith