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.

4 July 2019

The UK government has announced a year-long review of the food system, which will lead to a new National Food Strategy for England. As well as consulting experts and people working through the supply chain, the review process will include a Citizen’s Assembly (a form of sortition), where a representative set of randomly selected people will listen to the evidence, debate it and make suggestions for next steps.

4 July 2019

This book presents a complete introduction to the political and institutional aspects of agroecology, covering the whole food system. It sets out a new concept known as political agroecology.

25 June 2019

This blog post by Mia MacDonald of US think tank Brighter Green and Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary explains the African swine fever epidemic that is currently affecting China and Southeast Asia. Over 3 million pigs have already been killed by the disease or culled as a preventative measure. The disease has not yet been passed on to humans.

25 June 2019

This book examines the impacts that climate change is expected to have on food security and also explores the contribution to food security that could come from wild relatives of food crops.

25 June 2019

This report from the US-based Breakthrough Institute suggests that increasing the productivity of grazing systems, particularly in lower-income countries, can help to shrink the area of land used as pasture.

25 June 2019

This report from UK supermarket Sainsbury’s sets out predictions for how the food system might be in the years 2025, 2050 and 2169. Near-term predictions include milk made from algae, and increased numbers of flexitarian eaters, while long-term predictions include farming in inhospitable landscapes such as deserts or Mars, and personal microchip implants that tell us exactly what nutrition we need.

17 June 2019

A joint investigation by the Guardian newspaper, Channel 4 News and the UK’s non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that halving ammonia emissions from farms in the UK could save thousands of lives each year. However, a loophole in regulations means that ammonia emissions from beef and dairy farms do not have to be monitored.

17 June 2019

This book by Ruth Kassinger uses case studies to explore how algae could be used to produce food, fuel and packaging materials.

17 June 2019

According to this study of farmland birds in Finland, bird abundance is positively correlated with the nearby presence of organic animal farms, as well as the percentage of nearby field cover and the presence of natural grasslands.

11 June 2019

This opinion article suggests that microbial biomass from bacteria, yeasts, or fungi could be used as human food and animal feed, with the advantage of using less land compared to conventional crop production, particularly if feedstocks were derived directly from atmospheric carbon dioxide.

11 June 2019

This paper finds that production of the top ten global crops has already been affected by climate change, with mixed impacts across both crop type and geographical area. Oil palm has seen a 13% decrease in yields relative to those that would have been seen under historical climate conditions, while soybean has seen a 4% increase.

3 June 2019

FCRN member Mark Measures has produced this report on the use of different soil analysis and management techniques for organic and agro-ecological farming. The report is the outcome of a Churchill Fellowship.

29 May 2019

Wageningen University and Research has formed a consortium together with several private companies to research the use of co-products and residues from the food sector and industry as animal feed. A particular research focus will be on increasing Europe’s self-sufficiency in feed materials.

29 May 2019

This feature in the New Food Economy explores how autonomous weed-picking robots could replace herbicides and tackle weeds that have become resistant to some herbicides. The robots use both GPS tracking and cameras to navigate fields and remove weeds.

29 May 2019

This publication from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations explains what blockchain technology is and explores how it could be used in agriculture, for example in insurance, land registration or tracking supply chains.

29 May 2019

This paper, produced by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, outlines a system that could produce animal feed with lower environmental impacts than conventional soybean production. The system combines LED lighting, indoor photobioreactors, atmospheric carbon capture and geothermal energy to produce an algae-based feed product.

13 May 2019

The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, by Amanda Little, examines the innovations that are changing food production.

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