Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Production efficiency/intensity

15 October 2020

In this blog post, Dan Blaustein-Rejto of US think-tank the Breakthrough Institute explains that agriculture produces half of air pollution in the United States, mostly through ammonia emissions from livestock and fertilisers. He argues that reducing air pollution from farming - for example through storing manure in covered pits and applying fertiliser more efficiently - would be beneficial for both human health and climate mitigation.

15 October 2020

This paper argues that the COVID-19 pandemic requires a policy response that significantly reforms the structure of the food system. It examines how policy responses to past food crises have shaped the present system, how COVID-19 is different to past food crises and which policy responses could build a more resilient future food system.

6 October 2020

This book (publication date 30 October 2020), presents interdisciplinary insights on the controlled release of fertilisers, including chapters from researchers in the fields of agriculture, polymer science, and nanotechnology.

27 August 2020

This report, published by a group of African and German nonprofits, critically assesses the work of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and has received nearly $1 billion in funding. 

26 August 2020

This article argues that “super low carbon cows” (cows that emit lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cows with the help of breeding, technology or livestock management practices) can be thought of as a form of geoengineering. The author argues that the promise of “super low carbon cows” is being used by some corporations to position business as part of the solution to climate change, while neglecting to address factors such as lifestyle and market structures.

26 May 2020

This policy briefing from US think tank The Breakthrough Institute lays out options for post-COVID-19 stimulus spending in the United States. It suggests funding farm conservation programmes that could improve farmer profitability, generate jobs, and improve environmental performance. It also proposes nationally scaling up farm machinery rebate systems, which exist in a few states, to encourage the purchase of efficient agricultural equipment.

10 February 2020

This blog post, by Caroline Grunewald and Dan Blaustein-Rejto of the Breakthrough Institute (a US think tank), argues that the large scale of much American farming does not mean it is necessarily unsustainable - rather, when looking at the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use per unit of output, dramatic improvements have been seen since 1961.

19 November 2019

The UK’s Countryfile TV programme has featured research by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University, which is using farm-based trials to study whether feeding biochar (a form of charcoal) to cattle can reduce their emissions of methane and ammonia.

29 October 2019

The book Food for All in Africa: Sustainable Intensification for African Farmers argues that the way forward for African agriculture is to produce greater yields with fewer inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides.

29 October 2019

The 2019 edition of the Global Agricultural Productivity Report from Virginia Tech University emphasises the systemic nature of the many challenges facing food, health and environment and calls for increased agricultural productivity as a way of meeting future food demand sustainably.

18 September 2019

This report sets out the plans of the UK’s NFU (National Farmers Union) to make emissions from agriculture in England and Wales net zero by 2040. It calls for collaboration between farmers, government and NGOs to reduce emissions through improved production efficiency, carbon capture through land management, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

22 July 2019

FCRN member Peter Alexander has co-authored this paper, which finds that incremental improvements in several areas of the food system (including production efficiency, reducing food waste and changing diets) could reduce agricultural land use by between 21% and 37%, depending on adoption rates. 

17 June 2019

Methane emissions from ammonia fertiliser manufacturing plants (which use natural gas as a feedstock and energy source) in the United States are around one hundred times higher than currently reported levels, according to this study. Researchers used a Google Street View car equipped with methane analysers to take measurements downwind of six ammonia fertiliser plants (there are only 23 such plants in the US).

16 April 2019

This paper traces mass, energy flows and emissions in the beef, poultry and pork supply chains in Germany (including all emissions from the animal production stages, and emissions from energy use at subsequent stages). It outlines the potential of different strategies to reduce consumption-based emissions. It finds that the greatest emissions reductions could come from dietary change, i.e. replacing some meat consumption with consumption of soybeans and nuts, or replacing some meat consumption with offal consumption.

26 March 2019

This paper assesses the agricultural water use efficiency of different food types based on their nutrient content, instead of the conventional approach of assessing water use in terms of litres used to produce a certain weight of food. The purpose of the study is to determine whether higher intakes of nutrient-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables and seeds might conflict with the aim of minimising agriculture’s water use.

20 March 2019

In this paper, FCRN member Nicholas Bowles of the University of Melbourne reviews existing data on the environmental impacts of the livestock sector and considers these impacts in the context of planetary boundaries. The paper reports that efficiency alone is unlikely to be adequate to shrink livestock’s impacts to a sustainable level, and that dietary shifts will also be necessary.

26 February 2019

The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has published its 2018 environmental progress report. FDF members report a 53% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in manufacturing operations since 1990, and a 39% reduction in water consumption since 2008.