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Key developments in science and technology in agriculture.

 

£17.5m innovation fund available to farmers and growers

Farmers Weekly

14 October 2021

Farmers and growers with ideas that could directly benefit the agriculture and horticulture sectors in England can bid for a share in a £17.5m pot of funding.

Defra’s new Research and Development Partnerships Fund has been ring-fenced for initiatives that increase farm productivity and environmental sustainability.

As the first initiative to be announced in the new Farming Innovation Programme (FIP), this fund aims to support “game-changer’’ farming and forestry ideas – ones that will solve issues that are holding the sector back.

Food industry must become more resilient, says sector council

Farmers Guardian

13 October 2021

Britain’s food industry needs to raise its productivity and sustainability by investing in skills and becoming more resilient to shocks. It also needs to work to supply sustainable and healthy food, and for high standards of food production and integrity of raw materials to be supported.

Those are among the key recommendations of the Food and Drink Sector Council (FDSC) in its report ‘Feeding the Future: working together to build the National Food Strategy’. Its ideas will contribute to the Government’s new National Food Strategy, which is due to be published early in 2022.

British-built rockets and gene-edited meat: Minister reveals vision to make UK 'science superpower'

Sky News

11 October 2021

The UK must become a "science superpower" where British-built rockets will launch British-built satellites running everything from cybersecurity to delivering pizza, the new science minister George Freeman has told Sky News.

Mr Freeman says he wants to put the days of Britain as a "science leader but innovation laggard" behind us, arguing UK consumers are ready to embrace new products like gene-edited meat that will improve animal welfare and tackle the climate crisis.

Prince Charles calls for meat consumption cut ahead of COP26

Farmers Weekly

11 October 2021

Prince Charles has urged the public to eat less dairy, meat and fish to help cut greenhouse gas emissions from farming ahead of a global summit on climate change.

Speaking to the BBC, the prince revealed that he regularly abstains from eating meat and dairy products on environmental grounds.

“For years, I haven’t eaten meat and fish on two days a week. And I don’t eat dairy products on Monday,” Prince Charles said. “If you all did that you would reduce a lot of the pressure on the environment and everything else,” he added.

'High-yield, land-sparing' approach needed for farming, study says

Farming UK

10 October 2021

Farming should be as high-yield as possible so it can be limited to relatively small areas, allowing much more land to be left as natural habitats while still meeting future food targets, according to new research.

Most species fare better under this “land sparing” approach than if farming tries to share land with nature – as wildlife-friendly agriculture still damages most biodiversity and requires far more land to produce the same amount of food.

This is the conclusion of University of Cambridge researchers, who took into into account over 2,500 individually assessed plant, insect and vertebrate species from five continents. The review, conducted by Professor Andrew Balmford, also suggests that “land sparing” sequesters more carbon.

University develops next generation vertical farming system

Farming UK

7 October 2021

A UK university is developing a next generation vertical farming system utilising hi-tech growing methods to produce high quantities of crops all year round.

The advanced system grows vegetables, salads and fruit, stacked vertically and without the need for soil, according to Nottingham Trent University.

In partnership with Henley Associates Ltd, they are creating two vertical farming units – one about the size of a shipping container and the other about half the size.

Importance of grasslands highlighted ahead of COP26

Farming UK

7 October 2021

Grasslands are one of the best land management options available for mitigating climate change, sheep producers have told policymakers ahead of COP26. The National Sheep Association (NSA) said that grasslands should be 'properly acknowledged' as effective carbon sinks and for delivering public goods.

Roughly two-thirds of terrestrial carbon in British landscapes is found below ground with most captured in organic matter and plant roots, the body explained. "With the climate and nature recovery debate raging, it is time policy makers caught up with the evidence," NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker said. "Grasslands are truly multifunctional, supporting food production as well as offering many environmental benefits.”

Farmers must cut mineral fertiliser use to meet net zero target, says Eustice

Farmers Guardian

6 October 2021

Defra Secretary George Eustice has said farmers will need to cut mineral fertiliser use ‘quite significantly’ in order to meet the country’s net zero emissions target.

His remarks came as the fertiliser industry faced a ‘perfect storm’, with rocketing wholesale gas prices prompting a Government bailout of CF Fertilisers, which also supplies about 60 per cent of the UK’s carbon dioxide as a by-product.

Legumes enhance yields while protecting bees, study says

Farming UK

4 October 2021

The targeted use of mixed legumes in agricultural systems could enhance yields while protecting pollinators, new research has found. Protein-rich legumes deliver a range of agronomic and environmental benefits including providing a substitute to meat-based proteins for human consumption.

They also decrease requirements for imported soybean in livestock systems, and - by fixing atmospheric nitrogen - reduce reliance on inorganic fertilisers and supress weeds and diseases. In addition, legumes such as field beans and clover, provide sugar-rich nectar and protein-rich pollen, helping to mitigate pollinator declines.

Brexit paves the way for gene-edited crops

BBC News

29 September 2021

The UK government is to relax the regulation of gene-edited crops to enable commercial growing in England.

The plants are to be tested and assessed in the same way as conventional new varieties.

The changes are possible because the UK no longer has to follow European Union regulations, which are the strictest in the world.