Agricultural research lacks strategic direction, says report

27th Nov 2012

There is a lack of ‘big picture’ strategic direction across agricultural research, according to a report looking at the requirements and priorities for research and innovation for primary food production in the UK.

A group of agricultural experts presented its findings at a meeting at the Royal Society on 21 November, and is now consulting on its draft report, before submitting it to government and funders of agricultural and horticultural R&D in March 2013.

The report, ‘Feeding the future: Innovation requirements for primary food production in the UK to 2030’, aims to allow funders to better target resource allocation and improve and increase sustainable food production. It found that there is a lack of ‘big picture’ strategic direction across the field.

Among the report’s recommendations are that management practices in agriculture should be improved by using modern technologies, including genetic approaches to produce higher quality, more sustainable, resilient and profitable crops.

It calls for better understanding and management of interactions between soil, water and crops or animals, and integration of disease management on farms. The report adds that social and economic sciences should be used to promote the uptake of such practices.

It recommends an expansion of training and professional development of researchers, and suggests working with universities, Research Councils UK and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to identify research or technical skills that are in short supply.

The commissioning group is made up of representatives from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, the Agricultural Industries Confederation, the National Farmers Union and the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and is supported by the Technology Strategy Board’s Sustainable Agriculture & Food Innovation Platform.

It welcomes feedback on the draft report until 31 January.

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