We believe that thriving, sustainable, highly productive business for UK farmers and growers and their supply chain partners delivers a lower environmental impact and goes hand-in-hand with valuing and enhancing the natural environment.
Our current strategy (2017-20) has a particular focus on productivity. This is just one of three overarching issues that are framing the development of a post-Brexit agricultural strategy for the UK, the other two being the environmental and social dimensions. Our productivity agenda plays into both of these as resilient, sustainable production interacts strongly with the issues highlighted in the Defra 25 Year Environment Plan (and the Clean Air Strategy), and our training and skills agenda also has a strong social dimension. Through our Farm Excellence project we are demonstrating and sharing knowledge with farmers and growers to deliver more sustainable food supply chains.
Key examples of how our current work interacts strongly with environmental issues include:
Our GREATsoils initiative includes a wide range of technical information and research on soil-related issues. For example, our Soil Health partnership aims to increase understanding of soil biology and develop a toolkit to measure and manage soil health. The Rotations partnership helps farmers, growers and agronomists optimise soil and water management decisions and plan environmentally and economically beneficial rotations.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Developing sustainable IPM systems that reduce reliance on conventional pesticides and minimise environmental impact has always been a core part of our research programme. This ranges from facilitating the development of crop varieties with better pest and disease resistance in arable and horticultural crops, to specific programmes of work aimed at understanding and optimising the use of novel biopesticides (e.g. the AMBER project).
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a key environmental impact of farming. We work to mitigate this through the development of Sector Roadmaps. Our activity delivers the 15 key farm “actions” within the Agricultural GHG Action Plan (https://ahdb.org.uk/knowledge-library/greenhouse-gas-action-plan-ghgap). Similarly, we are working to quantify and mitigate other agricultural gaseous emissions such as ammonia. For example, we have funded the development of an ammonia sensor for pig farms, to assess the performance and environmental impact of new buildings and/or feeding regimes.
Water quality is improving through the efficient use of fertilisers and manures. AHDB has taken responsibility from Defra for the Nutrient Management Guide (RB209). The published guidance is informed by the latest research on crop response to nutrient inputs. Our website provides regularly updated information about rainfall allowing farmers and growers to refine their nutrient management seasonally, saving money and loss to water protecting the environment.