Four new interdisciplinary projects have received £1.8 million in funding to improve sustainable farming practices in the UK.

The projects include:

  • Exploring biological management strategies to control insect populations;
  • Investigation of the use of sheep in arable rotations;
  • A novel soil health monitoring approach for livestock farming; and
  • Development of a farmer decision support tool to assist with systemic grassland management.

Sustainable farming

It’s hoped the projects will help improve the UK’s soil health, as well as reduce the use of artificial pesticides in line with Defra’s 25-year plan published in January 2018.

With a rapidly increasing global population set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, coupled with environmental change, the challenge of feeding the world has never been greater.

Making British farming more robust, resilient and sustainable will improve the UK’s ability to feed itself, whilst also benefiting the global food system more broadly.

Funded in the third round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club (SARIC), the grants have been awarded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), alongside 12 other industry partners.

This five-year public-private partnership has resulted in approximately £10 million being invested in academic-led research projects to address key industry challenges.

NERC director of science and innovation Professor Tim Wheeler said: “SARIC’s unique approach to supporting research and innovation projects at the interface of biological, environmental and social science offers a fantastic opportunity to address the industry-led challenges of developing more resilient and robust crop and livestock systems and building predictive capability and modelling technologies for UK agriculture.

“The success of this initiative is testament to the strength of the partnership between the three councils and SARIC’s 12 industry members. I look forward to seeing the impacts delivered from this £10 million investment.”

Developing new technologies

BBSRC’s executive director for innovation and skills Dr. Karen Lewis said: “These four new projects funded through the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club will contribute towards developing novel technologies and improving farming practices to increase the sustainability of the UK agricultural sector.”

SARIC was launched in 2014 following consultation with trade associations, levy boards, policymakers and academia.

The discussions identified a need to bring together researchers from the environmental, biological and social sciences with industry for the purpose of developing more sustainable agricultural systems and technological solutions.