NIAB is leading a 2 million Defra-funded researchproject to identify the most effective practices and test potential new farmingsystems to increase farm productivity while reducing environmental impacts andenhancing ecosystem services.
Project1 Integrated Farm Management for improved economic, environmental and socialperformance is one of three studies forming Defras 4.5 million SustainableIntensification Research Platform, known as SIP.
Theintention is to review existing methods for measuring the economic,environmental and social performance of farm businesses, and developappropriate metrics for sustainable intensification (SI). Practical approachesto Integrated Farm Management will be identified and tested, and new approachesdeveloped to support SI decision-making on farm at the end of the three-yearproject.
NIABsDirector of Crops and Agronomy and project lead Stuart Knight says: Newtechnologies offer a great opportunity to meet the challenge of improvingproductivity while benefiting the environment. Were delighted to lead such anexciting collaboration of agricultural, environmental and social scientists, economists,stakeholders and policymakers from over 25 organisations, includinguniversities, research organisations, charities, government agencies andindustry.
Thisis a unique opportunity to bring together the enormous amount of knowledge andinformation held across research and industry on agricultural land management.Ultimately, the aim is to translate this information into practical approachesto help farmers, land managers, the agri-food industry and policy makersbalance economic, environmental and social outcomes of farming in theirgeographic and/or environmental situation.
Theproject team will study farming practices for a set of farms across England andWales. Data collected will provide abaseline against which future farm performance can be assessed. These SImetrics will be designed to be applicable to different farming systems andenvironments in England and Wales.
A practical Integrated Farm Management (IFM) approachwill then be developed, with a set of SI practices taking into account thesector, environment and situation of farms. This includes practices identifiedfrom farms and horizon-scanning with key stakeholders to increase productivity,reduce costs, improve resource use efficiency, control pests and diseases,mitigate greenhouse gasses and pollution, and provide habitats forbiodiversity. These will be tested on study farms, covering a range oflocations, environments and farming types within the major crop and livestock sectors.
NIABsresearch officer and project coordinator Jenny Preston says that to support the on-farm implementation of SIpractices the research platform will be working with a wide range ofstakeholders to develop a decision supportand guidance framework.
We will be cataloguing existing industry support toolsand their effectivenessthrough surveys and farmer or advisor interviews, alongside farmer workshops toconstruct a list of desired results that can then be related to improvedpractices for IFM.
Thebenefits of SIPs collaborative research platforms are expected to continuebeyond the scope of the first three projects. It will provide a focal point forfunders to pool resources, hosting long-term research to address objectivesemerging from ongoing dialogue between stakeholders, researchers andpolicymakers.
Researchersand stakeholders working on projects linked to the SIP will establish a sharednetwork of research sites and form an expert community of practice tocoordinate translational research on farming systems and to engage in knowledgeexchange activities. These will form a platform to host future research onfarming systems and land management.