Future of UK farming relies on united government, researchers, industry

'Feeding the Future' study recommends critical research priorities for UK food production

The future of farming in the UK needs a united approach from government, researchers and the industry to developing new knowledge and technologies if it is to meet the challenges of the next two decades, according to Professor Chris Pollock CBE, who led a study for four UK farming industry organizations. Pollock has recommended seven crucial research priorities for the future of food production in the UK based on the recently published study, entitled “Feeding the Future: Innovation Priorities for Primary Food Production in the UK to 2030.”

“Ever since Malthus, concern has been expressed regarding the capacity of agriculture to feed an ever-increasing population,” said Pollock. “In the first half of this century we will be part of a global food network that has to produce 50 percent more food with less available land. This work has been about what the industry said it needed, and how it could play its part in this global challenge.” The report, which was commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union, the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board and the Agricultural Industries Confederation, and supported by the Technology Strategy Board, recommends:

  • a program of long-term strategic and applied research
  • using modern technologies to improve precision and efficiency of agricultural management practices, like genetic and breeding programs to increase productivity 
  • a united approach from government, research councils and producer groups to research and development, where primary producers are involved at a high level
  • work to maintain major scientific research while identifying missing skills and knowledge — and taking steps to replace them
  • government departments working together on issues which affect land use

“We need to fund programs for longer-term, applied research that links different sectors of industry,” said Pollock. “Food producers have tended in recent years to deal with today’s problems. If we want to shift the research agenda to deliver for 2030, we need to make sure that primary producers work together and with the funders of more basic research.”