Defra launches £4.5m sustainable intensification project

Defra has launched a £4.5m research project to investigate ways to increase farm productivity while reducing negative environmental effects. 

The scheme will bring together expertise from across the farming industry and research community to find ways to develop a more sustainable farming sector for the future.

Farm minister George Eustice said: “Supporting our farmers to become more productive while also protecting and improving the UK countryside is one of this government’s priorities.

“The £4.5m we are giving to these research organisations will help open up new opportunities for intensive, sustainable farming; boosting our farmers’ output in a way that safeguards the future of our environment.”

See also: 10 key findings of EU sustainable intensification report

Three research projects, lasting three years, will establish the Sustainable Intensification Research Platform (SIP):

Project 1 – Integrated farm management for improved economic, environmental and social performance

This project will be led by Niab and will develop and test productive, profitable farming systems that reduce risks to the environment and deliver a range of ecosystem services. This includes integrating practices to increase productivity, reduce costs, improve resource use efficiency, control pests and diseases, mitigate greenhouse gases and pollution, and provide habitats for biodiversity.

Project 2 – Opportunities and risks for farming and the environment at landscape scales

This project will be led by the University of Exeter and aims to develop approaches to understand the actions that are needed at landscape scales to deliver ecosystem services, productive and profitable farming businesses and biodiversity.

Project 3 – Scoping study on the influence of external drivers and actors on the sustainability and productivity of English and Welsh farming

This project will be led by Adas and will inform a project on the wider drivers and opportunities for decision-making on English and Welsh farms.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project farm at Loddington in Leicestershire has been selected as one of the five main research study farms.

Professor Chris Stoate, head of research at the Allerton Project, said: “Our part of this initiative will build on our existing research, which covers a combination of farm and landscape scale studies that focus on research topics such as soil management, water quality, wildlife habitats, farmland birds, as well as efficient management of crops for food.”

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