What we do
Management of land, whether it is for agriculture, horticulture, forestry or other enterprises has an impact on the environment. For our occupation of this planet to become more sustainable, we need to understand, identify, quantify and respond to these impacts. Our research on environmental impacts is divided into three areas:
- Low carbon and input farming. By 2020, agriculture has to reduce its emissions of greenhouses gases by 3 million tonnes (approximately 7%). This is an achievable target but will still require considerable research and development to reach. We undertake research on all aspects of crop production (breeding, plant establishment, agronomy, fertilizer and pesticide use, harvesting and post harvest storage) for the benefit of UK agriculture.
- Carbon and water footprinting. The expression 'if you can't measure it, then you can't manage it' is at the heart of environmental accounting. To able to understand, and subsequently benchmark or reduce the use of inputs into agriculture, you must first establish a baseline value. We undertake carbon footprinting, water footprinting, energy and mass balances, all of which can be used as a baseline value for further investigations.
- Ecosystem services. Agricultural land produces more than just food. Farmers, whether they realise it or not, are land managers. How land is managed affects the delivery of many hidden services, for example, biodiversity, the quantity and quality of water and air, landscape asthetics, etc. The study of ecosystem services is an attempt to consider all the services and benefits that land provides.
Current and Recent Projects
- To produce methodology for assessing the environmental, economic and social characteristics of farming systems (Defra OF0386, 2009 to 2012)
- Benchmarking agricultural water use in key commodity sectors (Defra WU0122, 2009 to 2012) [led by Cranfield University]
- Assessing the environmental impact of liberalising agricultural trade - with special reference to EU-MERCOSUR (Defra FFG1008, 2010 to 2011) [led by Harper Adams University College]
- Energy dependency and food chain security (Defra FO0415, 2010 to 2011)
- The water footprint of selected UK produced and consumed products (Defra WU0120, 2009 to 2011)
- Planting biomass crops: Assessment of options to reduce soil carbon loss (Defra NF0441, 2009 to 2011)
- Low carbon and low input production systems (Defra IF0177, 2009 to 2010)
- The use of environmental footprints in horticulture: Case studies (Defra WU0114, 2008 to 2009)
- Ecosystem services for climate change adaptation in land management (Defra AC0308, 2007 to 2008)
- Environmental footprint and sustainability of horticulture (Defra WQ0101, 2006 to 2007)