Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Primary production: Agriculture

Agricultural production sits at the heart of major societal concerns, spanning food security, nutrition and health; livelihoods and development; the environment;and animal ethics. In early history, the farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that allowed for the development of sedentary civilisation. Later, the Green Revolution of the twentieth century allowed for large groups of people, especially in developed countries, to “move off the land” and improved food supplies across much of the world. Yet while innovations in modern agronomy, plant and animal breeding, pesticides and fertilizer use have greatly increased food output, much environmental harm arising from these practices has occurred while concerns are also growing around excess calories and poor nutrition, leading to obesity and associated non communicable diseases as well as micronutrient deficiencies. Many of the 1.3 billion people worldwide who rely directly or indirectly on agriculture for their living face problems arising from imbalanced power structures, including poor working conditions, uncertain land use and tenure, and lack of access to inputs, infrastructure, capital and knowledge; these imbalances play out along the whole of the food value chain, between the genders, within country populations and across countries and regions. As to the environment, agriculture is responsible for some 20% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions of which about half arise directly from crop and livestock production and the other half from agriculturally induced land use change. It is also the main cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss, a major user and polluter of scarce water resources and responsible for the disruption of global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.

20 January 2020

This progress report to the Scottish Parliament from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change shows that, while Scotland’s overall greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3% in 2017, the Scottish Parliament's 2030 target to reduce emissions by 75% will be extremely challenging to meet. 

7 January 2020

In this piece for The Conversation, Dan Evans, PhD researcher in soil science at Lancaster University, explains his research on rates of soil formation and erosion. His measurements on a farm in Nottinghamshire, UK suggest that the top 30 cm of soil there could disappear within 138 years because the rate of erosion exceeds the rate of soil formation. 

7 January 2020

FCRN member Ken Giller, professor of Plant Production Systems at Wageningen University & Research, has contributed to the online magazine “The Story of N2Africa”, which tells stories from the last ten years of the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa.

7 January 2020

This report from UK food waste charity Feedback examines the impacts of UK sugar production. It finds that the area of farmland used to produce sugar beet in the UK - 110,000 hectares - is similar to the area devoted to UK vegetable production. The report argues that sugar beet harvesting is damaging to the soil.

7 January 2020

This paper from the UK’s Institute of Development Studies analyses how the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa has contributed to development outcomes in Ghana and Ethiopia. 

9 December 2019

In this film by research and communications project Agroecology Now! farmers from Lower Dzongu, Sikkim, India discuss the importance of traditional seeds for food, life and culture and their plans to establish a community seed bank to help maintain and revive traditional seeds. Farmers will be able to “borrow” seeds of local varieties from the seed bank, grow them and then return a greater number of seeds to the seed bank.

9 December 2019

This book describes the experiences of a growing minority of Latino/a immigrant farm owners in the United States. According to the book, many of these people use farming practices from their home countries, such as growing several crops at the same time or using integrated pest management.

9 December 2019

This report from the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University examines how farming in China can move away from a dependence on “industrial agriculture” (defined here as excessive and inefficient use of fertilisers and pesticides) towards agroecological systems (including practices such as lower stocking densities, using manure instead of synthetic fertilisers, growing diverse crops and using soil-building techniques). 

9 December 2019

This paper studies the impacts of several agricultural development projects (by USAID’s Feed the Future initiative) that aimed to tackle food loss and waste (FLW), finding that the interventions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food produced.

2 December 2019

Over 10,000 farmers blocked roads in Berlin on 26 November 2019 with a convoy of tractors in protest at regulations that will limit the use of fertiliser (to reduce groundwater pollution) and the weedkiller glyphosate (to protect insect populations). Farmers say that the measures will threaten their livelihoods and are also protesting against the perception that farmers are to blame for the climate crisis.

2 December 2019

In this blog post, Samuel Smith of international sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future sets out research he intends to conduct on how regenerative agriculture is understood, the strategies that could be used to scale it up, and how the food system would be affected by widespread conversion to regenerative agriculture.

2 December 2019

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett appeared on The Food Programme by BBC Radio 4 in the episode “Eating Animals Part 2: A Meat Q&A”. The programme also featured Patrick Holden of The Sustainable Food Trust and writer and environmental campaigner George Monbiot.

2 December 2019

This book offers case studies and discussions of how urban food systems are governed. It discusses both the Global North and South. Topics include cultural heritage preservation, food sovereignty, entrepreneurship and land-use conflicts.

2 December 2019

This book gives a holistic overview of both the impacts of climate change on agriculture and the contribution of agriculture to climate change, describes how to predict these interactions, and offers strategies for “climate-smart agriculture”.

25 November 2019

This book takes an interdisciplinary look at the pressures facing food systems in Southern Africa, covering topics such as economic drivers, population, climate change, water and soil fertility.

25 November 2019

In this report, the Nature Friendly Farming Network argues that, if given enough financial support, UK farmers can produce food in a way that both protects wildlife and reduces the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report also suggests that having a diet of “less meat and dairy but of better quality” could be environmentally beneficial.

25 November 2019

This report, commissioned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust and The Wildlife Trusts, examines how the profitability of upland farming systems can be increased at the same time as protecting the natural environment.

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