Farming revolution needed to keep UK competitive

A scientific revolution is needed to ensure UK farming remains competitive over the next 20 years and beyond, industry leaders have warned.

Investment in innovation, research and development – including the application of modern breeding techniques to crops and livestock – is vital if agriculture is to feed a growing world population, according to a cross-industry report published on Thursday (6 June).

Called Feeding the Future – Innovation Requirements for Primary Food Production in the UK to 2030, the document sees industry leaders set out what they believe farming’s chief research and development focus should be over the next two decades.

Research areas

1. Precision farming

2. Crop and livestock breeding

3. Soil, water and crop/animal processes

4. Weed, pest and crop disease management

5. Animal disease management

6. Valuing ecosystem service delivery

7. Training, development and communication

8. Affordable, safe and high-quality products.


1. Industry to work together to attract funding

2.Farmers to have greater influence on research

3.Integrated approach to advice, training and skills

4. Consistent approach from government and funders

5. Closer contact between scientists, advisers and farmers

As well as contributions from farmers themselves, the report includes input from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, the NFU, NFU Scotland, the Royal Agricultural Society of England and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.

Eight research priorities and five recommendations are outlined (see left), following consultation with farmers. The proposals will now be presented to public and private funders, said farmer and commissioning group member Jim Godfrey.

“Our aim is to influence their funding priorities, so that we as a nation can better co-ordinate our strategic planning and use of the resources that are available to us, to improve the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of UK agriculture and horticulture.”

The document is seen as significant because it comes as the government prepares to unveil its own agri-tech strategy. Mr Godfrey said: “This is the first time in my lifetime that UK primary producers have come together to identify their research and development priorities for the next 20 years.”

Report editor Chris Pollock said the document paved the way for funding for longer term, applied research that linked different sectors of the farming industry. “Food producers have tended to deal with today’s problems but we need to shift the research agenda to deliver for 2030,” he said.

With limited research funding available, AHDB chief executive Tom Taylor said it was vital to spell out the industry’s view on research priorities for farming. “This document has to be the reference manual for our policymakers and funding providers.”

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