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Farming Practices Will Need to Adapt to Help Solve Problem of Food Security

Published Wednesday, 25th September 2013 in Research news

Biomass harvesting

A conference organised by Scotland’s Rural College will today highlight the need for agriculture to adapt to help tackle the growing issue of global food security.

The event will be opened by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, and top international experts will present their own ideas as to how we can implement sustainable intensification - farming practices that will produce more food, while minimising the environmental impact – and so help feed the growing global population.

The conference has been organised by SRUC’s Carbon Management Centre. Its Head, Professor Bob Rees, thinks it is clear that farming practices will need to change to make sustainable intensification work.

He says: “Adaptations need to take place to mitigate the effects of climate change, and also to make better use of resources. This is possible because there is still plenty of slack, or inefficiency, in the system. However, change can be difficult, and we have to help farmers through advice and education on the best management practices.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “Our farmers are the stewards of Scotland’s magnificent countryside, and are the backbone of the rural economy. It is important that food production is never taken for granted, and that we face up to the important challenges ahead. This means making the best use of our land resources, making sure that we use the best science available and having farmers equipped with the right skills to grow crops that meets consumers’ expectations in terms of quality and sustainability.

“The Scottish Government is committed to delivering sustainable economic growth for Scotland and our Economic Strategy priorities include ‘Supportive Business Environment’ as well as ‘Transition to a Low Carbon Economy.’ This fits in perfectly with the concept of sustainable intensification in farming.”

The UK Government has also recently recognised the importance of sustainable intensification in its new UK Agricultural Technologies Strategy. SRUC’s Principal and CEO Professor Bob Webb sits on the Leadership Council of this strategy which aims to ensure the UK is a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability to allow it to respond to the global challenge of sustainable intensification.

Today’s conference is another significant step towards understanding and developing this vital new concept.

Keynote speakers include Professor Pete Smith, from the University of Aberdeen, who is currently a lead author on the intergovernmental panel on climate change's fifth assessment report, due out in October. Also speaking is Professor Tim Benton, the UK's champion for global food security who acts as an ambassador and spokesperson for matters to do with food and food security, coordinating work in this area between research councils and government departments. His talk will address the factors constraining food production and consider how we might overcome them.

Other presentations will look at rooftop farming (no soil and no waste), how to quadruple our cereal yield, biochar use in China, mitigating N2O emissions from soy beans, methane emissions of Brazilian beef cattle and carbon neutral livestock farming.

Download the full conference programme.

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