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Sustainable Intensification Conference Tackles the Big Issues

Published Wednesday, 2nd October 2013 in Research news

Sustainable Intensification Conference

Last week’s highly successful SRUC conference discussed the vital new concept of sustainable intensification: producing more food while minimising our environmental impact.

Over 200 international experts from 30 countries tackled themes like food security and food waste, greenhouse gas mitigation, adapting to climate change, and the social, economic and physical constraints that can make changing behaviours so difficult.

Harry Clark, director of the New Zealand agricultural greenhouse gas research centre, spoke about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming in New Zealand. While they have managed to reduce the level of emissions per unit of food produced their overall emissions have risen due to the increasing volume of production.

The New Zealand example seemed to perfectly illustrate the huge challenge we face when it comes to producing more food while reducing our environmental impact.

While many speakers confronted this challenge, such as those researching changing management practices and new technologies to help decrease emissions in both crop and livestock based agriculture, others touched on what needs to change on the demand side, i.e. Consumer behaviour.

Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen, and Dave Reay from Edinburgh University, both spoke about the huge amount of food – an estimated 30% - that is wasted or lost each year globally.

Other topics under the conference microscope included: Aquaponics, increasing cereal yields, knowledge exchange and new policy approaches, nitrous oxide emissions in agriculture, harnessing the spirit of the soil and animal health and welfare.

The conference has confirmed that sustainable intensification is a diverse, complex and controversial topic but it is only by addressing it that people can begin to make a difference.

As Pete Smith said: “Intensification is already happening, now we need to make it sustainable.”

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