According to researchers at the James Hutton Institute, if we are to solve the apparent conflict between the interests of nature and those of modern agriculture then more needs to be done to promote sustainable food production.
According to warning comes in response to the publication of the State of Nature 2016 report, this warning shows that many wildlife species are under threat as a result of intensive food production.
The Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme, in which the James Hutton Institute takes part, focuses on many areas related to sustainability. The Institute is researching how agricultural management at the field, farm and landscape scale can be adapted to benefit important groups such as insect pollinators and the natural enemies of crop pests. Scientists at the Institute are also trying to look how best to improve habitat networks.
The Institute also feeds results from its upland and lowland experimental farms into sustainable farming practice, and they also actively shares these approaches with others in the sector through its role as a LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) Innovation Centre. The Institute says that some of that new and innovative practice informs agricultural policy, but solving the sustainability conundrum will require more than policies.
“At the root of the divergence between food production and sustainability is people’s desire to have cheap food. Cheaper food means smaller margins for farmers who then have less scope to invest in non-essential activities such as those that benefit biodiversity or the environment. Policy needs to help lead the move away from a race to the bottom on price as well as steering industry behaviour to practices that are more rather than less sustainable,” said Euan Caldwell, Head of Farm, Field and Glasshouse at the Institute.
The State of Nature Report for 2016 highlights the continuing decline of many species at both the UK and Scottish level. As part of the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme, the James Hutton Institute is researching how agricultural management at the field, farm and landscape scale can be adapted to benefit important groups such as insect pollinators and the natural enemies of crop pests.