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Conference hopes to help make sustainable intensification a reality

Published Wednesday, 10th April 2013 in Carbon Management Centre news

Sustainable intensification, the idea that we can increase food production without further damage to the environment, has been growing in popularity.

However, it presently remains more of a possibility than a reality. An SRUC conference in Edinburgh, from 25th to 27th September will begin to define how we can make sustainable intensification work.

Food security has rocketed up the political agenda in recent years with agriculture playing a crucial role in the debate. As the population climbs ever further we will need to produce 70% more food while at the same time trying to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

The tension between farming and the environment is longstanding with current concerns raised recently including the use of neonicotinoids and their potential effects on bees, as well as the high methane output of cattle (agriculture accounts for 44% of UK methane emissions). Sustainable intensification is believed by many to offer a solution to these overlapping issues and at the conference in the John McIntyre Conference Centre SRUC’s Carbon Management Centre will examine the pathway to low carbon farming.

Dr Bob Rees, Head of the Carbon Management Centre, says:

“This is the first conference of its kind in Scotland as it will bring together the issues of sustainable intensification and greenhouse gas mitigation. It is vital we discuss the concept. It could help us feed a future population of nine billion without destroying the planet in the process. We will bring together some of the world’s top researchers in agriculture and climate and their discussions will give us a greater understanding of the problems we face as well as highlighting possible solutions.”

The event, ‘Sustainable intensification: The pathway to low carbon farming?’, will be opened by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, and it hopes to answer some very big questions indeed.

How should we define and measure sustainable intensification? What methods of sustainable intensive farming have seen results? How much do such systems cost? Are they really a practical to solution to the grand challenges the world faces?

Confirmed speakers include Professor Tim Benton from the University of Leeds who will talk about the constraints of increasing food production, Professor Pete Smith, a world leading expert agricultural responses to climate change, Dr Monika MacDevette who will discuss regional mitigation and adaption strategies and Dr Bob Rees, who will set the scene with his presentation on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation.

The conference is supported by the Scottish Government and the British Society of Soil Science. It has been organised by SRUC’s Carbon Management Centre and partners The James Hutton Institute, the Moredun Institute, the University of Aberdeen and the Centre for Excellence in UK Farming (CEUKF).

For more information please contact or visit SRUC’s website.

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