Agricultural research should focus on food production rather than reducing the impact of farming on the environment, the NFU has said.

Speaking at the launch of the NFU’s Why Science Matters campaign in London today (14 October), NFU president Peter Kendall said scientific development should focus on making agriculture more efficient.

He also called for the government to change its priorities and increase its spending on agricultural development to allow the UK to become more productive.

“In the 21st century we are faced with the unique challenge of needing to produce more food using less land, water and other inputs,” Mr Kendall said.

“Therefore we need to embrace science, research and technology more than ever before to help increase production while preserving our environment and dealing with the impacts of climate change.”

Mr Kendall said funding for agricultural research had dropped by 45% in the past few years, with many jobs being lost in the sector.

The underinvestment had led to second class facilities for researchers working in sensitive areas such as animal disease, while national productivity had been made stagnant, at just 1% a year, he said.

“Applied science and knowledge transfer must receive proper resource from government if we are to reverse the current trend and see new technology and advancements.

“We must look at new ways to collaborate, both with government and private companies, as so many of the issues surrounding food production impact on society and the economy.”