Organic farming at six year low says report
From a peak in 2009, land being farmed organically in England in 2014 was at a six year low of 296,683 ha, and organic farms had a lower average Farm Business Income (FBI) than non-organic farms for all farm types except Less Favoured Area (LFA) grazing farms, according to an independent report from Rural Business Research. The Organic Farming in England report is drawn from the latest results from Farm Business Survey 2013/14 data and compiled by Charles Scott from the Rural Business Survey at Newcastle University. Charles Scott said: 'However, as has been the case for some years, organic LFA grazing farms remained more profitable than their non-organic counterparts'.
Farm modernisation and rural resilience in Europe
The transdisciplinary European RETHINK research programme has been researching the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources. Over the past three years they have been exploring alternative development trajectories, highlighting innovation opportunities and identifying potential synergies between farm modernisation and sustainable rural development across Europe. One of their main goals has been to help overcome simplistic viewpoints of what modernization entails and to identify best practices supporting a sustainable agriculture in vibrant rural areas. Their final end of project conference takes place on 2 December 2015 in Brussels. For more information on the project, the programme and the online registration portal visit www.rethink-net.eu
Tackling the nitrogen crisis
A broad, discipline-spanning symposium to examine the nitrogen crisis, its severity and how we measure and monitor it has been organised at Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, on Friday 18 September 2015. This follows a BBSRC-NSF meeting of scientists from the UK and USA who are working on aspects of the nitrogen crisis. The symposium will explore innovations to alleviate the crisis, from changing agricultural practice, legume breeding, nodulation of cereals, cereal nitrogen use efficiency, through to engineering solutions such as expressing nitrogenase in mitochondria, synthetic symbioses and exploiting natural endophytes. How these relate to social and regulatory aspects of changing agricultural practice in both developing and well-developed countries will be considered. There will also be a networking reception at Somerville College, Oxford from 7pm on Thursday 17 September 2015. To register and for further information visit http://rhizosphere.org/nitrogen-crisis-meeting-sept-2015/ or contact email@example.com.
Diversity is important for effective pollination
The majority of plant species rely on flower-visiting insects for pollination. Insect pollinators include wild bees, flies, butterflies and beetles, but managed honeybees also play an important role. Abundant and diverse pollinator communities are essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems, stable crop production, and to ensure effective pollination services in the face of continued land use and climate change. But the diversity of these insects is under a variety of pressures. LWEC Policy and Practice Note no 19 makes recommendations for policymakers and land managers that could help to address the problems.
Prospects for Farmers Support: Advisory Services in European Agricultural and Information Systems
The PRO AKIS project aimed to find out how and from what sources farmers get reliable and relevant knowledge, as well as orientation and support, in order to continuously evolve, to successfully solve problems, and to respond to external expectations and development opportunities. The project concluded at the end of May with a very successful Final Conference in Brussels. All presentations are available for download and a quick overview of PRO AKIS outputs and key findings may be found in their brochure which is available in five languages. In discussion with the project advisory boards and other stakeholders the project team developed policy recommendations for European and national policy makers on how to support innovation in the agricultural sector.
Ecosystem Services: Taking the Next Step
The Exeter University Centre for Rural Policy Research brought together land advisers, land managers and academic researchers to consider the links between ecosystem services and sustainability at a recent symposium. In the Landbridge blog Matt Lobley shares a flavour of the day and you can also find links to the speakers slides.
Would you like to see more young people coming into agriculture?
Organisations from across the industry have come together to develop Brightcrop an initiative that aims to inform young people about food and farming and encourage more entrants into the industry. Brightcrop has a website www.brightcrop.org.uk and is also looking for ambassadors who are prepared to give some of their time to enthuse and inspire school students about agricultural careers. Ambassadors could be farmers, agronomists, engineers, scientists, land agents or others involved in agriculture. They can take up varied roles, from attending careers fairs and giving talks in schools, to conducting mock job interviews, depending on their expertise. The Brightcrop team will be delivering a training session on Wednesday 8 July from 8-10am at Ibbotsons Produce Ltd, Mill Hill, Braegate Ln, Colton, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire LS24 8EW. Register via Eventbrite if you would like to attend, or visit the website to find out more about how to become an ambassador.
Exchanging knowledge across Europe
Katrin Prager from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen reflects on the prospects for farmer support provided through advisory services and highlights some of the findings from the EU project PROAKIS in our Landbridge blog.
The battle to combat black-grass a breakfast seminar at the Great Yorkshire Show
Herbicide resistance in black-grass is rising steadily. The Farmer Scientist Network will be addressing this serious issue in their first breakfast seminar, to be held at the Great Yorkshire Show 8.15-9.30 am on 16 July 2015. The seminar will be led by Farmer Scientist Network Chair Professor Rob Edwards who is Head of Agriculture at Newcastle University and research lead of the BBSRC-funded black-grass herbicide resistance initiative. He, together with colleagues from Sheffield and Rothamsted research, will present the latest results in understanding and combatting this serious threat to UK arable farming. Tom Allen-Stevens, an arable farmer based in Oxfordshire and editor of Crop Protection Magazine will provide a practitioner perspective.
Healthy Minor Cereals information event at Nafferton Farm and Gilchesters Organics
Healthy Minor Cereals is an EU project focussing on enhancing exploitation of minor cereal species. Nafferton Ecological Farming Group, with the support of Gilchesters Organics, is currently trialling four different varieties of spelt and rye under different regimes and will be holding an event in Northumberland, at Nafferton Farm and Gilchesters Organics, on Saturday 11 July. There will be information sessions about the project and about the Gilchesters production system, a tour of field trials and discussion with questions over a barbecue lunch. If you are interested in attending please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
BBSRC seeks stakeholders to join pool of experts, strategy panels and committees
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is looking for suitably qualified and motivated individuals from academia, industry and other BBSRC user communities to fill a number of vacancies on strategy panels, the pool of experts, Committee E and Follow-on-Fund Committee. This is an opportunity to work with other highly experienced people from across the academic, public, private and civil sectors to make an important contribution to the future direction of bioscience research. If you are interested in joining any of these committees or panels, please visit the Call for BBSRC Pool of Experts, Strategy Advisory Panels, Research Committee E and Follow-on-Fund Committee page. The closing date for applications is Sunday midnight, 5 July 2015.
PROHEALTH: a holistic approach to production diseases
Production diseases usually originate from a complex interaction of genetics, environment (including housing, nutrition and management) and pathogens. In the past, efforts to control production diseases have focused on controlling either the pathogen or the genetic susceptibility of the animal. In reality, there are many interacting factors which determine whether an animal which is subject to an infectious or metabolic challenge will show clinical, or subclinical, signs of disease. The PROHEALTH project is motivated by the belief that a more holistic view of production diseases is required. By investigating how the many different and complex factors on the farm interact with the inherent resistance in an animal, and also looking at the biological mechanisms that underlie the differences in susceptibility between animals in the same environment, the researchers aim to develop more effective control strategies. This will result in demonstrable improvements to animal welfare as well as bringing economic benefits. The PROHEALTH Consortium has expertise in veterinary science and epidemiology, physiology and immunology, genetics, nutrition, socio-economics, welfare and production science of pigs and poultry. It involves 22 partners from across the EU and is led by Newcastle University. To find out more about PROHEALTH and follow the research results visit the project website.
Superfeed lupins will save soya protein
The potential for home-grown sweet lupins to replace imported soya in livestock, poultry and aquaculture concentrate feeds has been made clear through the three year project at Aberystwyth University which has revealed that livestock, poultry and fish given rations containing lupins perform equally well and in some cases better than those fed rations of comparable quality containing soya.
Rothamsted launches new knowledge exchange project for farmers and land advisers
The CROPPROTECT project, based at Rothamsted Research, is developing a web-based knowledge exchange system to provide farmers and agronomists with guidance on pest, weed and disease management, especially in situations where effective pesticides are not available and alternative approaches are required. Log onto CROPPROTECT on the Rothamsted website. In the latest landbridge blog Toby Bruce from Rothamsted Research, explains what it aims to achieve and how it will develop.
Submit your question about business practice to the Nexus Network
The Nexus Network which brings together researchers, policy makers, business leaders and civil society to develop collaborative projects and improve decision making on food, energy, water and the environment, is asking members of the business community to tell them: What are the most important questions around business practice that, if answered, could help companies manage their dependencies and impacts upon food, energy, water and the environment? For more information, and to submit your questions between now and July, visit the Nexus Network website.
How are pests and diseases affecting bee pollinators?
Bees are important for food production; there are over 250 species in the United Kingdom and they provide pollination services for many of our crops. Pests and diseases, sometimes in combination with other factors, can cause decline in bee populations. LWEC policy and practice note no 17 looks at the latest research and makes recommendations for minimising pest and disease risks to wild and managed pollinator bees.
Making policy and managing land to minimise risk to pollination services
The toxic effects of common pesticides are rarely highly specific and can pose a risk to beneficial insects such as pollinating bees. LWEC’s Policy and Practice Note no 16 looks at how these risks might be minimised by policymakers, in how they design and implement policy, and by land managers in their approach to pest control.