What agricultural practices are most likely to deliver “sustainable intensification” in the UK?


Lynn V. Dicks, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
David C. Rose, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
Frederic Ang, Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands
Stephen Aston, One Acre Fund, Rwanda
A NE Birch, The James Hutton Institute, United Kingdom
Nigel Boatman, Food and Environment Research Agency, United Kingdom
Elizabeth L. Bowles, Soil Association, United Kingdom
David Chadwick, Bangor University, United Kingdom
Alex Dinsdale, USULA Agriculture, United Kingdom
Sam Durham, National Farmers' Union, United Kingdom
John Elliott, ADAS UK Ltd., United Kingdom
Les Firbank, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Stephen Humphreys, Bayer CropScience Ltd., United Kingdom
Phil Jarvis, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust/Allerton Project, United Kingdom
Dewi Jones, Welsh Government, United Kingdom
Daniel Kindred, ADAS UK Ltd., United Kingdom
Stuart M. Knight, NIAB, United Kingdom
Michael RF Lee, Rothamsted Research, United Kingdom
Carlo Leifert, Southern Cross University, AustraliaFollow
Matt Lobley, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Kim Matthews, AHDB, United Kingdom
Alice Midmer, LEAF, United Kingdom
Mark Moore, AGCO, United Kingdom
Carol Morris, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Simon Mortimer, University of Reading, United Kingdom
T C. Murray, Harper Adams University, United Kingdom
Keith Norman, Velcourt Ltd., United Kingdom
Stephen Ramsden, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Dave Roberts, SRUC, United Kingdom
Laurence G. Smith, the Organic Research Centre, United Kingdom
Richard Soffe, Duchy College, United Kingdom
Chris Stoate, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust/Allerton Project, United Kingdom
Bryony Taylor, CABI, United Kingdom
David Tinker, Institution of Agricultural Engineers, United Kingdom
Mark Topliff, AHDB, United Kingdom
John Wallace, Morley Business Centre, United Kingdom
Prysor Williams, Bangor University, United Kingdom
Paul Wilson, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Michael Winter, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
William J. Sutherland, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Publication details

Dicks, LV, Rose, DC, Ang, F, Aston, S, Birch, ANE, Boatman, N, Bowles, EL, Chadwick, D, Dinsdale, A, Durham, S, Elliott, J, Firbank, L, Humphreys, S, Jarvis, P, Jones, D, Kindred, D, Knight, SM, Lee, MRF, Leifert, C, Lobley, M, Matthews, K, Midmer, A, Moore, M, Morris, C, Mortimer, S, Murray, TC, Norman, K, Ramsden, S, Roberts, D, Smith, LG, Soffe, R, Stoate, C, Taylor, B, Tinker, D, Topliff, M, Wallace, J, Williams, P, Wilson, P, Winter, M & Sutherland, WJ 2018, 'What agricultural practices are most likely to deliver “sustainable intensification” in the UK?', Food and Energy Security.

Article available on Open Access

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Sustainable intensification is a process by which agricultural productivity is enhanced whilst also creating environmental and social benefits. We aimed to identify practices likely to deliver sustainable intensification, currently available for UK farms but not yet widely adopted. We compiled a list of 18 farm management practices with the greatest potential to deliver sustainable intensification in the UK, following a well‐developed stepwise methodology for identifying priority solutions, using a group decision‐making technique with key agricultural experts. The list of priority management practices can provide the focal point of efforts to achieve sustainable intensification of agriculture, as the UK develops post‐Brexit agricultural policy, and pursues the second Sustainable Development Goal, which aims to end hunger and promote sustainable agriculture. The practices largely reflect a technological, production‐focused view of sustainable intensification, including for example, precision farming and animal health diagnostics, with less emphasis on the social and environmental aspects of sustainability. However, they do reflect an integrated approach to farming, covering many different aspects, from business organization and planning, to soil and crop management, to landscape and nature conservation. For a subset of 10 of the priority practices, we gathered data on the level of existing uptake in English and Welsh farms through a stratified survey in seven focal regions. We find substantial existing uptake of most of the priority practices, indicating that UK farming is an innovative sector. The data identify two specific practices for which uptake is relatively low, but which some UK farmers find appealing and would consider adopting. These practices are: prediction of pest and disease outbreaks, especially for livestock farms; staff training on environmental issues, especially on arable farms.

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