The government’s need to slash spending to deal with the country’s massive debts must not be allowed to further damage agricultural research, the NFU has warned.
Speaking at Cereals 2010 event in Cambridgeshire on Wednesday (9 June), union president Peter Kendall said the decline in research and development was compromising farmers’ abilities to produce food and manage the environment.
And while farming could not expect significant investment in research when the budget deficit was so huge, any funding available had to be spent effectively.
To help continue investment in ways to increase yields and secure the future of the industry, Mr Kendall said a “new model of collaboration” was needed between public and private funding sectors.
A concerted effort to attract the next generation of agricultural scientists was also vital, he added.
“As a practical farmer, I can see the impact of past research and the application of science every day on my farm.
“The crop varieties, fertilisers and sprays, the GPS on my tractors, the decision-making tools and management practices all enable me to be more efficient in my use of land, to increase yield and quality and improve my environmental footprint.”
Arguing that it was not enough to have “amazingly clever fundamental research”, science developed at institutes such as Rothamsted and the John Innes Centre needed to be taken closer to crops and animals, he sad.
“I firmly believe that it is science and, most importantly, its application on the ground, that is needed to provide the solutions to the huge challenges we face as a nation and globally.
“We also need scientists with the practical and communication skills – a network of experts and advisers with science skills – to really get engaged with farmers.”