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    12 Feb 2014 21:29
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    Happy Holidays from the NanoKTN
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    Call for abstracts: Uncertainty in earth...
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    PURE Research Blog: Spurious realism
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    Freshwater Management Symposia Highlights now...
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    The future is here: get involved!
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    Last chance to enter the TakeAIM competition
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Winds of change bearing interesting seeds....

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New Director at Rothamsted Research Prof. Acem Dobermann brings a wealth of new potential to the UK according to the announcaments on their website having a "unique multi-disciplinary background which includes biotechnology, breeding, sustainable ecosystems management, climate change, grain quality and nutrition, postharvest technologies, precision farming technologies and social sciences, amongst other skills. He is a champion of public engagement and outreach as well demonstrating an excellent track record of establishing effective public-private partnerships."

Very thought provoking article at his blog:

http://irri.org/blogs/item/is-getting-out-of-farming-the-best-bet-for-smallholder-farmers

 

 

Tackling waste in the food supply chain: short survey request

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The UK’s Global Food Security Programme is currently undertaking a review of waste and what is known about it. Global Food Security is a multi-agency programme bringing together the interests of the Research Councils, Executive Agencies and Government Departments to meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of nutritious food from less land and using fewer inputs..

 

Increasingly, alongside raising production, managing food’s “demand side” is seen as instrumental in coping with increasing global food insecurity.  An important element of decreasing the demand for food is managing waste better.  

With this in mind Global Food Security have created a survey to capture perspectives on where the major causes of food waste occur, and to identify priority areas of research which may potentially address these issues. This information is important for shaping the research agenda to find ways to tackle it throughout the supply-chain (from farm to fork to bin). This survey only takes 10 minutes to complete and will help build a clearer picture of this complex issue.

 

Click HERE to access the Food Waste Survey

 

 

sent on behalf of Dr Mark Bond

GFS Food Waste Review Project

 

 

 

Event Notification: Pathways to Better Crops

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Date: 6th March 2013

Venue: University of Sheffield

Time: 10:30 to 16:00

 

A network building, knowledge-sharing meeting organised by the Organic Growers Alliance, supported  by the University of Sheffield and the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND:

 

If you’re a grower:• Build a consensus about what needs to be done to solve today’s problems and prepare for tomorrow’s• Help form a research & development strategy for organic horticulture that addresses your issues• Meet researchers and find out what they can do to help your business – explore the possibilities• Learn new skills to help structure your project planning and decision making

If you’re a researcher:• Meet end-users and understand their needs to better target your work and increase your impact• Initiate collaborations for your future funding opportunities

If you’re a supplier to the horticultural industry:• Understand how your business fits into the changing needs of horticulture• Build your links with growers and researchers• Display information about your business

 

WHAT YOU WILL BE DOING:

• Listening to “visions of the future of horticulture” by a leading grower and a leading scientist• Casting your votes to establish research and development priorities for organic horticulture• Learning new techniques for complex decision making• Creating knowledge webs and identifying knowledge gaps for organic horticulture• Learning how science might be able to help solve your existing issues, prepare for the future and confer a competitive advantage• Making new connections and having some fun!

 

WHAT IT WILL COST:

 

 

OGA member (growers)

Book up to 22ndFebruary:  Free (up to £50 costs available on application for travel)

Late booking after 22nd February: Free

OGA associate member

Book up to 22ndFebruary: Free

Late booking after 22nd February: £25

Non-members

Book up to 22ndFebruary: £50

Late booking after 22nd February: £75

 

Register here

 

UK Food Security Research- an urgent request for your help!

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UK Food Security Research- an urgent request for your help!

 

We are currently working with the UK Global Food Security (GFS) Programme to identify key unanswered research questions which the UK Food System needs to address and I would like to ask for your help with this.

If you can spare just a few minutes to read and think about this message and then respond to me directly at anne.miller@esktn.org with your company and contact details, I will make sure that your thoughts are fed into the expert group who are currently engaged on this project, which will ultimately shape future research on food security (*see below for more details on the process).

 

Much of the recent focus in food security discussions has centred on the production of food and key research needs in agriculture. However, GFS are keen to widen this to incorporate activities throughout the food system, from processing to packaging, distribution, retail and consumption of food.  So the focus of this project is on the UK Food system over the next 10-15 years, considering food consumed within the UK, whatever its origins.

 

If you are working in any part of the food supply system please let me know what you consider to be key questions that are answerable by research but for which we currently have insufficient knowledge. The following criteria apply when formulating questions:

 

They must:

- be answerable through a realistic research design.

- have a factual answer that does not depend on value judgments.

- address important gaps in knowledge.

-  be of a spatial and temporal scope that reasonably could be addressed by a research team.

- not be formulated as a general topic area.

-  not be answerable with ‘it all depends’.

- not be answerable by yes or no (i.e. not ‘is X better for food safety than Y’) except if   questioning a precise statement (‘does the earth go round the sun?’).

-  if related to impact and interventions, contain a subject, an intervention, and a measurable outcome.

 

Example questions

These illustrate the type of questions we are after, but please don’t feel restricted to these categories or subjects. This is entirely your call.

 

- What constrains consumer acceptance of substitutes for traditional but scarce/unsustainable products?

- How do you measure the volatility in supply security?

- How do recent price fluctuations in food staples affect the diets and nutrition of the poorest sector of UK society?

- How effective is the sale of grade B fruit and vegetables for reducing food waste and increasing uptake of “5 a day”?

- What are the most cost-effective and efficient ways of capturing low-grade waste heat from the food processing industry?

- How sustainable is online shopping and home delivery compared with traditional supermarket visits?

- What determines the uptake and effectiveness of household organic waste collection?

- What would make a more comprehensive currency than simply carbon for assessing the breadth of ecosystem service values in the UK food system?

- What incentives will encourage farmers to increase the use of buffer strips along water courses to improve water quality?

- How will estuarine fisheries be affected by reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use?

- What are the health implications of using plant extracts to enhance the shelf-life of fresh fish?

- Which microbial monitoring techniques are most efficient and practical for new meat inspection legislation?

- How can we reduce the risk of enterobacteria developing in airtight damp-grain stores?

- How does domestic as opposed to international sourcing affect the acceptability of fresh produce?

- How can emerging crop diseases due to climate change best be managed without using additional pesticides?

- How can we modify potato supply chains to improve their resilience to future climate change?

 

* How this process works: The GFS research team will compile the long list of contender questions that will then be grouped and selected using a similar approach to that which was used in compiling the Top 100 Questions of Importance to Global Agriculture: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/earthscan/ijas/2010/00000008/00000004/art00001

The company and contact details requested will be confidential and are requested simply to ensure that the final selection includes a representative cross section of different stakeholder interests, and for me to come back to you with any request for clarification.

 

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Anne Miller,

Environmental Sustainability KTN. anne.miller@esktn.org

Good practice guidance for green infrastructure and biodiversity

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A new report just released has been widely hailed by both ministers and NGOs as providing an excellent tool for those working on Green Infrastrutures. 

Jointly authored by The Town & Country Planning Association and The Wildlife Trusts Planning for a healthy environment – good practice guidance for green infrastructure and biodiversity is available to download here

Leaf/Syngenta/ESKTN workshop final recommendations

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Supporting the work of the Green Food Project LEAF, Syngenta and the ESKTN (Environment Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network) held an event, supported by the UK Food Chain Alliance and BBSRC in March 2012. 

 

The workshop set out to explore the stresses and the need for compromises and change amongst informed stakeholders about what we want the UK’s farmed land and environment to deliver, through synergies and trade-offs, to meet the challenge of the increased need for producing food over the next 30 years in a sustainable manner.  Over 80 people attended the event where our objectives were to:

·               Engage key stakeholders to identify economic, environmental and social drivers, constraints and consequences for all sectors interested in, and impacting on the production and delivery of food in the UK.

·               Identify areas of interest and vision where there is overlap, opportunities or synergy.

·               Identify those areas where there is diversity of opinion and explore how this can be overcome, through tradeoffs and compromise, to reach a common vision, whilst building understanding, trust and respect.

·               Identify technology gaps, actions and next steps to realize the common vision and build trust along the food supply chain.

Three inspiring keynote presentations set the scene for the subsequent exploration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of both the challenges and the solutions. Through workshops and panel discussions the participants worked together, developing both within and cross-sector perspectives on the trade-offs required and the opportunities for innovation. A detailed report of the outcomes from each of the workshop groups, together with the striking and accessible ‘visual minutes’ of each one are available to download from both LEAF and ESKTN websites. These include summaries of the risks, the innovation opportunities and the trade-offs perceived by different groups.

10 key messages to policy makers, researchers and industry emerged from the workshop - all interdependent and we have been developing these over the last few months.  They are summarised below:

Key message 1.  Planning at the landscape level – To attain gains for food production whilst improving biodiversity and reducing impacts on the environment requires innovative planning at the landscape level, with the Ecosystem Services approach offering new opportunities to engage others (such a water companies) in this discussion.

Key message 2. Working across sectors – Recognition that to work on the challenges faced in implementing sustainable food and farming will require us to think, plan and capture value across all of the supply chain. Retailers are already providing a pull for farmers to work sustainably, and there are some good working examples of shared responsibility, such as business groups and LEAF Marque.  However more solutions need to share the value across the supply chain, through innovative approaches.

Key message 3. New mechanisms for sharing value and information – There was a strong agreement that trade-offs are necessary but priorities and perceived compromises were not agreed.  We need to start putting figures on the table and talking about trade-offs, supported by evidence. Better levels of integration between the key technologies underpinning ‘sustainable intensification’ are essential, with leadership required to establish mechanisms for sharing information and ideas.  There was a strong call for better integration, such as increased uptake of Integrated Farming, better integration across the food chain; landscape and government.   More research and pilot activities are urgently needed to explore how best to deliver intelligent solutions that optimise inputs, minimise the dependency on fossil fuel use and enhance the environment and resource effectiveness, with greater focus and resources provided for disseminating the outcomes of this research throughout the supply chain

Key message 4. Legislation and the speed of innovation:  The current regulatory environment (particularly in Europe) is now genuinely hindering investment in R&D and farming, primarily through escalating costs/timelines for registration/implementation.  This is causing money to seep elsewhere and depletes the incentive for companies to invest in developments, knowledge transfer and training in European farming since innovative technologies come to market very slowly. There was a strong call for legislation to be enabling and scientifically robust. There was a lack of public support for R&D in general and for applied research in particular, with a worrying lack of appreciation of the long term significance for food security and the competitiveness of our research in a global marketplace.

Key message 5. Water, energy and resource use: Efficient use of water and energy is key for sustainable farming. This includes precision farming solutions as well as effective integrated solutions i.e. the use of solar panels, windmills, human organic matter etc. Options for innovation and technology improvements included closed application systems (also better for reduced pollution), use of application robots as part of precision forming developments and closed loop systems for better resource use, but these will need more enabling and intelligent regulation.

Key message 6. Soils:  Combining the best of modern technology and innovation with the best of traditional management methods through the adoption of Integrated Farming, were key elements coming through many of the discussions: the importance of soil management and soil health, especially for water holding capacity and management, and looking to more use of organic matter again to replace nutrients as well as improve soil health.

Key message 7. Education and communication with the public/ along the supply chain – ‘Intensification’ is a term that should be avoided as it suggests increased yields at all costs: how can this perception be changed? Landscape and ecosystems approaches mean more tailored production to the location and media interest can support this understanding, with opportunities to build on Country File type programmes. The National Curriculum is being re-written, so there is an opportunity to influence this, with more emphasis on getting children to connect food with the environment  and farming, and encouraging more regular school farm visits (Open Farm Sunday is an effective way of encouraging these connections and we should look to strengthen this work). Options for innovation and technology developments included exploring and exploiting the potential of mobile phone ‘apps’ and interactive games to engage younger age groups.

Key message 8. More effective knowledge exchange There is significant potential to build on the effective knowledge exchange work of LEAF through it’s demonstration farms and management tools.  There is a need to clearly identify the key ambassadors among farmers, researchers, industry and environmentalists to support change.  For example, agronomists taking a much greater role in this, supplemented by more demonstration farms and LEAF activity.  Industry could support this by highlighting the whole ecosystem benefits of their products/services and the financial benefits of biodiversity schemes, but there is also a need for advice delivered by a trusted independent partner. Other innovations including mobile phone technology and social media have a key role to play.

Key message 9. Economic sustainability – Need to calculate, discuss and communicate the true financial aspects of sustainability.  Research, support mechanisms, economic instruments, market drivers and innovative solutions need to be further explored to enable more sustainable standards.  This should include possible CAP mechanisms, payments for Ecosystem Services, carbon sequestration, Biodiversity Offsetting, etc..

Key message 10. Farm business competitiveness and viability – the ability of farm businesses to respond to increasing pressures, regulatory, financial and value chain requirements, mean that modern farm businesses will have to develop a variety of new skill-sets and management techniques.  There is a need for the value chain as a whole to develop working models that ensure a more integrated and shared approach to responsible for ensuring these skills are in place right across the food chain.

 

We would welcome your comments on these key messages as we take them forward over the coming 6 months to ensure that we drive forward the changes, developments and activities we need to build a robust and resilient farming system.

 

Defra Green Food Project report launched today

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In the Natural Environment White Paper, published in June 2011, there was a commitment to „bring together Government, industry and environmental partners to reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing food production". Defra's Green Food Project brought together representatives of farmers, manufacturers, retailers, caterers, environmentalists and scientists to work out how to reconcile the competing demands of producing more food and improving the environment.

 

Launched today at the Great Yorkshire Show, the initial report of the Green Food Project sets out the first steps on the road to: using less energy and water in food production; increasing crop yields; introducing more innovative technology; improving conservation management; and boosting numbers of talented, entrepreneurial young people making careers in the food industry.

Jim Paice said at the launch: “With our increasingly hungry world every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment. Britain already punches above its weight, but we’re a small island with limited space, so we’ve got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.

“We’re not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we’ve got to become more sustainable.”

More on this and the report is downloadable at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/food/environment/

Supporting the work of the Green Food Project LEAF, Syngenta and the ESKTN held a workshop in March, supported by the UK Food Chain Alliance and BBSRC, outputs from which are avalable here.

 

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services Business collaborations: Internship call launched

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Call for short projects in the area of Business Engagement with Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services: apply by Friday 15th June 2012

 

NERC are funding a number of short projects / internships on Business Engagement with Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services, with ESKTN managing this call on behalf of NERC.

The objectives of this programme are to:

·         Initiate collaborations between academics and business or third sector organisation partners, leading to the application of ecosystem services approaches in longer term self-sustaining activities undertaken by partners

·         Generate evidence and case studies of how businesses and other organisations have used or could use ecosystem services approaches, in collaboration with academics, to introduce innovation into their business

·         Provide evidence concerning the effectiveness of policies intended to facilitate the development of ecosystem services approaches by businesses and third sector organisations.

More details are available here:

 

Contact ESKTN for an informal discussion by e-mailing the Administrator, Anna Baginska on anna.baginska@esktn.org  or telephoning 01865 610505.

Not just one, TWO new funding opportunities supporting innovation in agriculture, food and drink

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Jim Paice, Food and Farming Minister, launched a £15 million programme to stimulate innovation and growth in the food industry at the Farming, Food and Drink Innovate for Growth Summit in London on 14th March.

This programme has two funding competitions:

 

1.         The Technology Strategy Board, in partnership with Defra and BBSRC, will invest up to £15 million in major R&D projects that increase the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of the food processing and manufacturing sector, focussing on increasing efficiency and reducing supply chain waste. Applications open in June 2012.

 

2.     Defra and the Technology Strategy Board are also launching the Innovate for Growth competition, providing up to twenty £25k grants for innovative SMEs across the farming, food and drink industries. This funding will support the rapid development of an innovative idea and demonstrate its practical feasibility. The competition will open in April 2012, with results announced in the summer.

 

You can down load details of both of these competitions here

 

Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is organising a series of regional workshops in March and April 2012 around the UK.

These workshops will help delegates to get a better understanding of the scope of these competitions, as well as the competition process, rules and how to apply:

 

20th March - Belfast: http://regional-innovation-workshop-belfast.eventbrite.co.uk/

22nd March Edinburgh: http://regional-innovation-workshop-edinburgh.eventbrite.co.uk/

27th March - Leeds: http://regional-innovation-workshop-leeds.eventbrite.co.uk/

28th March - Peterborough: http://regional-innovation-workshop-peterborough.eventbrite.co.uk/

29th March Reading: http://regional-innovation-workshop-reading.eventbrite.co.uk/

3rd April - Exeter: http://regional-innovation-workshop-exeter.eventbrite.co.uk/

4th April Cardiff: http://regional-innovation-workshop-cardiff.eventbrite.co.uk/

 

Ecosystems Knowledge Network launched by Defra

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Defra launches the Ecosystems Knowledge Network: a resource for anyone wanting to share knowledge or learn about the practical benefits of an ecosystems approach

A healthy natural environment is the foundation of a sustainable future with prospering communities.In the UK and elsewhere, pioneering projects are exploring new ways of managing land and sea environments and the benefits people derive from them. In particular, they are reflecting an ‘ecosystems approach’: a holistic and inclusive approach to promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and taking better account of the values people hold for the environment.

A new network has been sponsored by Defra with the aim of sharing experience from projects taking an ecosystems approach. The Ecosystems Knowledge Network will stimulate knowledge exchange and practical learning across the country, assisting organisations and groups to understand how an ecosystems approach can help build sustainable communities.

The Ecosystems Knowledge Network is free to join and open to anyone with an interest in an ecosystems approach. The Network will support the practical use of an ecosystems approach by:

  • Developing an active membership of people and organisations interested in benefiting from an ecosystems approach
  • Encouraging the sharing of information and experience between projects and between experts and newcomers to the approach
  • Engaging with and involving people who might not otherwise be aware of how an ecosystems approach can benefit them.

 

The Natural Capital Initiatve is developing the new Network in an independent partnership involving the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Fabis Consulting, the University of Exeter (Centre for Rural Policy Research) and Countryscape.The Network website and other communications are currently being developed.

 

In the meantime, for further information about the Network or to register your interest in joining, please visit http://www.naturalcapitalinitiative.org.uk/ekn

Natural Capital/ Ecosystem Services/ Biodiversity offsetting: what on earth are they about?

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ESKTN are running a Natural Capital workshop in London on 13th March,  on behalf of the research community, in order to foster dialogue and encourage more businesses to think about their exposure to risk...from nature!

 

Admittedly the language is pretty off-putting, but the threats to business continuity are increasingly being recognised since we depend on nature to supply many of the raw materials and services that allow us to keep production levels increasing globally, and the costs of these keep on rising.

 

A number of major multinationals worked this out some time ago but we need to get the message out to smaller and medium sized businesses, that there are bottom-line benefits in building nature into your business planning and risk-management processes.

 

We will be lining up top speakers to explain what ecosystem valuation means, what natural capital is and to explore how can business benefit from getting to grips with biodiversity. 

 

I am also posting below some links to various recent publications in this area, which I hope will help to inform discussion and participation.

 

First of all there are supporting documents on  biodiversity offsetting (yes, it really does exist, and we will be hearing more about it from government as well as other businesses). http://bbop.forest-trends.org/documents/For_Companies_how_can_BBOP_help_Mar10.pdf

 

http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/biodiversity/offsetting/documents/110714offsetting-background.pdf

 

UPM, the forestry company, offers an example of a well-developed biodiversity strategy, having been a signatory to the UN's Leadership Declaration as part of a "Business and Biodiversity Initiative"  : http://www.upm.com/EN/RESPONSIBILITY/Forests/Biodiversity/Pages/default.aspx

 

There are also business case-studies available from PepsiCo, M&S, Puma, The Co-op, InterfaceFlor and Wilmott Dixon, published recently by the Aldersgate Group.

http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/reports

Puma have recently published their first Environmental Profit and Loss Account- more here

 

Flora and Fauna International and others supported the Natural Value Initiative in publishing  "Tread lightly: Biodiversity and ecosystem services risk and opportunity management  within the extractive industry". It presents case studies but also an excellent summary of the investment industry's interest in this area, and a clear glossary of the jargon!  http://www.fauna-flora.org/wp-content/uploads/NVI_extractive_industry_benchmark_summary.pdf

This follows on from their earlier ecosystems services benchmarking tool: 

http://www.naturalvalueinitiative.org/download/documents/Publications/EcoSysBenchmark.pdf

 

WBCSD has produced several relevant publications including guidelines for Corporate Ecosystem Valuation published in 2011  http://www.wbcsd.org/work-program/ecosystems/cev.aspx

and a new training programme on the links between business and ecosystems: http://www.wbcsd.org/bet.aspx

Together with the Meridien Institute and the World Resources Institute they have just published an updated version of their corporate ecosystem services review guidance: http://pdf.wri.org/corporate_ecosystem_services_review.pdf

 

The Global Reporting Initiative has recently proposed their approach for organizations to examine ecosystems as “service providers”: https://www.globalreporting.org/resourcelibrary/Approach-for-reporting-on-ecosystem-services.pdf

 

UNEP and the International Water Management Institute have recently produced a synthesis report on An Ecosystem Services Approach to Water and Food Security

An_Ecosystem_Services_Approach_to_Water_and_Food_Security_2011_UNEP-IWMI.pdf

 

Finally there is the UN's TEEB reports (The Economics Of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) including TEEB for Business available here:

 

The Natural Choice: new White paper published

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The Natural Choice’, the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years, published on 7th June is directly linked to the groundbreaking research in the National Ecosystem Assessment published last week that showed the strong economic arguments for safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment.

 

The White Paper also acts on the recommendations of ‘Making Space for Nature’, a report into the state of England’s wildlife sites, led by Professor John Lawton and published in September 2010, which showed that England’s wildlife sites are fragmented and not able to respond to the pressures of climate change and other pressures we put on our land.

Launching ‘The Natural Choice’, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“The natural environment matters to us all – not just because it makes us feel good when we stumble across a bluebell wood or spot a pair of goldfinches, but because we are now all able to see the terrible price we would pay if we lost what we have or neglected to care for it. Nature belongs to us all, and we’ve all got a vested interest in protecting it.

“That’s why the true value of nature should be built in to the decisions we make – as individuals, organisations, businesses and governments – so that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it. This is what ‘The Natural Choice’ will help us all achieve.”

Key measures in the White Paper, which also takes forward recommendations contained in ‘Making Space for Nature’, include:

Reconnecting nature

New Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), transforming rural and urban areas and providing bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change. With a £7.5 million fund for 12 initial NIAs to demonstrate just what can be done. Professor Sir John Lawton has agreed to chair the panel to allocate funding.Biodiversity offsetting – new way for developers to ensure we don’t lose wildlife sites and make them better by making and improving other sites.New Local Nature Partnerships to strengthen joined-up action across local agencies and organisations, with a £1 million available this year.Phasing out peat – working with the horticulture industry to phase out peat use, which will help to protect and restore our peatlands, which are valuable carbon sinks, habitats and part of our ecological network. A task force to consider all options to phase out use of peat in the supply chain will be chaired by Dr Alan Knight OBE.

Connecting people and nature for better quality of life

Green Areas Designation allowing local communities to give protection to areas that are important to them for recreation, the view or their importance for wildlife.Better urban green spaces for the benefit of cities and towns. Support for parks, gardens, and tree planting which benefit people and nature alikeMore children experiencing nature by learning outdoors, through practical support to schools and reducing red-tape for outdoor learning.Strengthening local public health activities which connect people with nature for better healthNew environmental volunteering initiative “Muck in 4 Life” to improve places in towns and countryside for people and nature to enjoy.

Capturing and improving the value of nature

Natural Capital Committee – an independent body to report to the Government’s economic affairs committee chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This body will put the value of nature at the heart of the Government’s economic thinking, and advise Government about the best way of securing our natural assets for the future.An annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc – showing where our economy has withdrawn from the value of nature’s bank balance, and where we have invested in it. This will help measure green growth alongside GDP.A business-led Task Force chaired by Kingfisher Group Chief Executive Officer Ian Cheshire, to expand the UK business opportunities from new products and services which are good for the economy and nature alike.

The White Paper aims to improve the quality of the natural environment across England, halt the decline in habitats and species, and strengthen the connection between people and nature. The new way of looking at nature will help the growth of a green economy which treats natural capital in a responsible and fair way, encouraging businesses to use that capital sustainably. The actions contained in the Natural Environment White Paper will create a radical shift on how we view our natural assets by incorporating the natural environment into economic planning and ensuring there are opportunities for businesses that are good for nature and good for a strong green economy.

“In the past we have undervalued what our natural environment gives us,” Caroline Spelman addedThis White Paper changes that, because we cannot afford to make the same mistakes again.

“We can all gain from the economic, social, and health benefits nature gives us, but we need to recognise that if we withdraw something from Mother Nature’s Bank, we’ve got to put something back in to ensure that the environment has a healthy balance and a secure future.

“What I’d really like to see happening as a result of this White Paper is more children enjoying nature and continuing that interest into adulthood, so that they pass that passion for the environment down through the generations. That would be a legacy well worth leaving.”

 

Read the paper at:

http://www.archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/natural/documents/newp-white-paper-110607.pdf

New tools allow us to put economic value to Nature's 'free' services

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Exciting times at Defra!

Today saw the launch  of the UK's National Ecosystem Assessment, a ground-breaking project which has developed a set of tools that will allow many of Nature's 'free' services to be given economic values, opening up the possibility of such services appearing on national (and business) balance sheets for the first time.

 

Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,) and, significantly, Oliver Letwin (Minister of State for Policy) were both on hand to welcome this report and spoke very highly of how it will be utilised to direct Government's forthcoming policy developments, starting with the Natural Environment White Paper which is due out shortly, followed by the Water White paper.

 

The report draws on the expertise of hundreds of UK scientists and demonstrates that Nature is worth billions of pounds to the UK economy, as well as providing a wide array of other benefits e.g. contributions to health and social well-being. 

 

Defra say of the report:

'The assessment provides values for a range of ecosystem services to help us fully understand the value of the natural environment and how the benefits to individuals and society as a whole can be better protected and preserved for future generations.

Examples include:

The benefits that inland wetlands bring to water quality are worth up to £1.5billion per year to the UK

Pollinators are worth £430million per year to British agriculture

The amenity benefits of living close to rivers, coasts and other wetlands is worth up to£1.3billion per year to the UK

The health benefits of living with a view of a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year.

The UK NEA shows that the tendency to focus only on the market value of resources we can use and sell, such as timber, crops and fisheries, has led to the decline of some ecosystems and habitats through pollution, over-exploitation, and land conversion.'

 

All of the documents that contributed to this assessment as well as a summary report are available to download at:

http:// http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/

 

Defra's Chief Scientist, Prof. Bob Watson, who co-chaired the UK NEA says 

“There is an urgent need to better manage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provide us with. But until now there has been no clear way of valuing the full range of benefits they provide beyond what we can buy and sell. The UK NEA introduces groundbreaking approaches to measure the value of these services and how they will be affected in future if we do not make the right choices now.

“The NEA shows that we need a more integrated approach to ecosystem management, involving Government, the private sector, voluntary groups and the public working together to protect the services nature provides”

 

Industry and Business will be a key part of taking this forward, so ESKTN will be carrying out project work in this area, aiming to engage everyone in our community: so keep watching here for more details!

 

Watch Prof. Bob Watson explain more at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzgeShn5seg&feature=player_embedded

 

 

Technology Strategy Board develops a strategy for business innovation

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The Technology Strategy Board has today published its strategy for Buisness Innovation 2011-2015

With its concept to commercialisation, the TSB aims at accelerating economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.

 
TSB’s budget for the period 2011-12 to 2014-15 is over £1bn. In partnership with business and other funders, this will generate investment of around £2.5bn to drive economic growth. The strategy for business innovation over these years concentrates on five areas:
 
• Accelerating the journey between concept and commercialization;
• Connecting the innovation landscape;
• Turning government action into business opportunity;
• Investing in priority areas based on potential;
• Continuously improving our capability;
 
Read here the full the TSB's strategy for business innovation.

 

 

Opportunity for on-line study of sustainable food production systems

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Call for students interested in Sustainability and E-learning
If you are interested in an international, interactive and online discussion on what sustainable agriculture, food production, distribution and consumption should look like and how we can deal with the upcoming issues of water scarcity, climate change and population growth, then please read on:
 
At the beginning of the winter term 2011/2011 we would like to offer an e-learning course, with a prime focus on
- Sustainable Nutrition and Consumption
- Systems Thinking in Organic Farming
- Redefining Food Systems Efficiency
These e-learning modules are offered by the University of Kassel, Department of Organic Food Quality and Food Culture in cooperation with the College of the Atlantic in Maine (USA) and The Organic Research Centre (UK).
 
The course will be taught in English and involve a maximum of 30 students from Germany, the USA and the UK. Students who participate actively in the course can earn up to six credits.
For more detailed information, please contact Doris Häge, scientific assistant at the department of Organic Food Quality and Food Culture:
Your UK contact is Roger Hitchings, Principal Consultant at the Organic Research Centre
We are looking forward to hearing from you!!
Please note that there is a Summer Academy at the University of Kassel, Witzenhausen that will be of interest and relevance to the e-learning course. The subject is Food riots vs. the land of milk and honey 2.0: Ways to sustainable food security. The deadline for application has been extended to 31st May
Place: University of Kassel, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, Witzenhausen
Dates: From 2pm on Sunday, 7th August to 2pm on Thursday, 11th of August.
Cost (inclusive of full board and costs for fieldtrips):
Single room: 150 Euro
Double room: 100 Euro
Three bed room: 90 Euro
Support may be available under the Partridge Foundation Funded Trans Atlantic Partnership Project

Soil sealing across the EU:a sobering study

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In the European Union (EU) about 1,000 km² were annually subject to land take for housing, industry, roads or recreational purposes between 1990 and 2006. This is an area exceeding the size of Berlin. About half of this surface is actually sealed by buildings, roads and parking lots. 
Soil sealing means covering of the soil by a  completely or partly impermeable artificial material (asphalt, concrete, etc), causing an irreversible loss of soil and its biological functions and loss of biodiversity, either directly or indirectly, due to fragmentation of the landscape. 
 
Compensation of soil loss 
Two principles were identified, namely compensation fees and compensation measures:
Compensation fees for the conversion of agricultural soils into building land are being charged in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The income of the fee sometimes is directed to an environmental fund. Compensation measures build on the principle that soil consumption and hence the loss of soil functions (habitats for species, food production, drainage capacity, carbon sequestration etc.) is compensated with restoration of soil functions somewhere else. 
This principle is already realised in several German Federal States through eco-accounts and is currently being tested in Austria. 
Consideration of soil quality along planning processes 
The integration of soil protection and hence protection of soil functions in spatial planning is relatively new and is a result of a general commitment to sustainable spatial planning. At the international level the Interreg project TUSEC-IP established criteria how to respect soil functions in spatial planning. The project results are increasingly influencing spatial planning standards, as this is the case in Germany, Northern Italy and Austria. Indicative guidelines to consider soil functions in spatial planning procedures exist in all German Federal States, in 
two Austrian Provinces, and in the autonomous  province of Bolzano in Italy. Awareness of soil functions and how to respect them in spatial planning is increasingly growing. 
International Networks and Research
At the level of international networks only very few aspects concerning soil sealing are currently covered: monitoring, exchange of knowledge and raising awareness are partly covered but there are no international initiatives with the objective to push the issue on the EU political agenda. 
 
More at 

3rd EU SCAR report highlights future agricultural research priorities and principles:

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The conclusions of the 3rd SCAR report Sustainable food consumption and production in a resource-constrained world make good reading: 
 
'The fundamental building block of a vision for 2050 is that of “a world that is able to guarantee a growing population access to and control of safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable food and to manage the necessary balance between food demand, health and nutrition requirements and natural resources”. Global systems for producing and distributing food must also be more resilient,
more sustainable and more equitable.
 
A radical change in food consumption and production in Europe is unavoidable to meet the challenges of scarcities and to make the European agro-food system more resilient in times of increasing instability and surprise. Inspired by the fact that Europe is addressing the climate change challenge in industry and is intending to make new energy technologies a win-win-win strategy for market, labour and human welfare, the agro-food sector should now consider that there is an opportunity to positively address the challenge and be the first to win the world market for sustainably producing healthy food in a world of scarcities and uncertainty.On the basis of the conclusions emerging from the analysis published in this report, we have derived a set of principles upon which our food system in general and research concerning our agriculture and food system in particular should be based:
 
1. Well-being and high quality of life of all stakeholders involved in food and agricultural systems , from producers to consumers.
2. Resource use efficiency and optimality by avoiding waste, recycling, and reducing our footprint, and by applying the cascading principle of resource contribution.
3. Resource conservation: to avoid the irreversible loss of natural resources, critical natural resources, including biodiversity, land and water should be maintained, taking into account the interaction between scarcities. Resource conservation does not only imply an increase of productivity in their use, but also a shift towards sufficiency.
4. Diversity and inclusion: food and agricultural systems should reflect the territorial diversity present within the EU and worldwide to ensure resilience and equity.
5. Transdisciplinarity: research and innovation underpinning future food and agricultural systems should fully integrate the various sciences, including the social sciences and humanities, but be also transdisciplinary, that is, fully integrating the end user into research and innovation.
6. Experimentation: research should be diverse, that is, ranging from blue sky research (fundamental research with no immediate applications) to applied research, but also based on different paradigms and narratives.
7. Coordination and impact evaluation: research should be better coordinated across thematic domains as well as Member States. At the same time, research impacts should be better monitored and evaluated.
8. Public involvement: strong public investment in research remains crucial to safeguard all of the previous principles.
 
 
 
The purpose of the 3rd Foresight Exercise (FEG3) is to update the state of some critical driving forces and to focus on the transition towards an agricultural and food system in a resource-constrained world, given the likely critical importance of those driving forces. Its aim is to provide building blocks for longer-term perspectives to prepare a smooth transition towards a world with resource constraints and environmental limits and to guide agricultural research in the EU and its Member States.'

Calling anyone who provides measurement and diagnostic technologies for cattle and sheep production

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The Biosciences KTN is seeking support from the Environmental Sustainability KTN community in identifying new technologies for measurement and diagnostics for use in cattle, sheep, grassland or animal feed (the “ruminant livestock” industries).  

There are opportunities for companies to present or showcase their technologies at the Ruminant Innovation Networking Event that will be held on May 18th in Edinburgh.

This could be a new opportunity to apply your technology in a new sector. For example, a company may have a new sensor that could be used to monitor methane production levels, that is of interest to animal scientists and cattle and sheep breeders to help reduce environmental emissions and improve production efficiency – and there are likely to be many other new innovation opportunities. This event provides the opportunity to network, and develop new collaboration and business opportunities by bringing together different sectors, who may not usually meet.

For more details, please go to /web/rumens-and-ruminants-interest-group/networking-event

 

Places at the event are limited, so please register as soon as possible.

Who says farmers don't use IT? BigBarn brings the Big Society to farming

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The sustainable agriculture round table discussion group at last night's Guardian Sustainable Business network  found ourselves discussing how many farmers are now making use of all sorts of IT in creative and innovative ways: a prime example being Anthony Davidson, a 5th generation farmer who decided  to diversify using the power of the internet over 10 years ago when he set up BigBarn: I quote:

"BigBarn is a Community Interest Company that has been trading for 10 years.  Our mission is to reconnect consumers with their local food producers and encourage trade.  

BigBarn.co.uk has 6,700 producers listed as icons and 23,000 consumers receiving our post code specific newsletter.   All those on the map have a password to update their details and consumers are encouraged to rate and feedback on each producer.

So far 399 producers have also set up online shops in our MarketPlace where consumers can buy anything from Seaweed & langoustine from the Isle of Bute to Haggis from Lancashire and pay with one credit card transaction."

For more about the project which continues to expand nationwide and to try it out for yourself go to: 

http://www.bigbarn.co.uk/

Just released: The Edinburgh Declaration on Reactive Nitrogen

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This week over 350 scientists, policymakers, industry and NGO representatives gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland at the ‘Nitrogen and Global Change’ international conference.

During the week the first European Nitrogen Assessment was published, the impact of reactive nitrogen on Europe’s wildlife and forests was discussed, and a Nitrogen footprint calculator was launched.

At the closing session of the conference the delegates agreed a statement ‘The Edinburgh Declaration on Reactive Nitrogen’ outlining mechanisms for tackling the threats of nitrogen pollution in Europe and beyond. 

The Edinburgh declaration:

  • acknowledges the importance of reducing reactive nitrogen emissions to the environment, stating that there are many options for reducing emissions where the benefits for society clearly outweigh the costs of taking action to reduce these emissions 
  • acknowledges that further communication, education and awareness raising of the nitrogen problem to industry, farmers, retail, policy makers and society at large is required for increasing insight into and support for the options to reduce the impacts of nitrogen pollution
  • recognises the need to make the links associated with nitrogen between different international conventions including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, the UNECE Water Convention, Oslo and Paris Commission, the Helsinki Commission, and European directives, and that nitrogen plays a key role in the issues addressed by these international treaties and policy instruments
  • agrees that the estimated health damage by nitrogen air pollution, contributing to significant reductions in average lifetime of European citizens, confirms the continued need to reduce these emissions
  • agrees that an overall strategy to reduce the losses and adverse impacts of reactive nitrogen on society should be focused on improving nitrogen use efficiency, particularly in agriculture, which can provide significant financial benefits to farmers and society as a whole.

The full text of the 23 point Edinburgh declaration can be found here: 

http://www.nitrogen2011.org/edinburgh_declaration

 

The European Nitrogen Assessment launch video can be viewed on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuwN6qxM7BU

 

The European Nitrogen Assessment published by Cambridge University Press is available to download from the Nitrogen in Europe (NinE) website

http://www.nine-esf.org/ENA-Book

 

The Nitrogen Deposition and Natura 2000 study looking at the impact of nitrogen pollution on wildlife is available to download from 

http://cost729.ceh.ac.uk/n2kworkshop

 

For more information on the nitrogen footprint calculator visit 

http://www.n-print.org/

 

 

For further information on nitrogen research and policy contact:

 

Lead editor of the European Nitrogen Assessment, Dr Mark Sutton, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology ms@ceh.ac.uk

 

Nitrogen and Global Change Conference,lead organizer, Dr Stefan Reis, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology srei@ceh.ac.uk

 

Nitrogen footprint calculator, Professor Jan Willem Erisman, Energy research Centre of the Netherlands, Free University Amsterdam Erisman@ecn.nl

 

Nitrogen and wildlife, Natura 2000 study, Dr Kevin Hicks, University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute kevin.hicks@york.ac.uk

 

Reactive nitrogen, European forests and the greenhouse gas balance, Professor Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, Karlsruhe University, Germany klaus.butterbach-bahl@kit.edu

 

International Nitrogen Initiative, Dr Cheryl Palm, Columbia University, New York, USA cpalm@ei.columbia.edu

      

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Tackling waste in the food supply chain: short survey request

 

The UK’s Global Food Security Programme is currently undertaking a review of waste and what is known about it. Global Food Security is a multi-agency programme bringing together the interests of the Research Councils, Executive Agencies and Government Departments to meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of nutritious food from less land and using fewer inputs..

 

Increasingly, alongside raising production, managing food’s “demand side” is seen as instrumental in coping with increasing global food insecurity.  An important element of decreasing the demand for food is managing waste better.  

With this in mind Global Food Security have created a survey to capture perspectives on where the major causes of food waste occur, and to identify priority areas of research which may potentially address these issues. This information is important for shaping the research agenda to find ways to tackle it throughout the supply-chain (from farm to fork to bin). This survey only takes 10 minutes to complete and will help build a clearer picture of this complex issue.

 

Click HERE to access the Food Waste Survey

 

 

sent on behalf of Dr Mark Bond

GFS Food Waste Review Project

 

 

 

Event Notification: Pathways to Better Crops

 

Date: 6th March 2013

Venue: University of Sheffield

Time: 10:30 to 16:00

 

A network building, knowledge-sharing meeting organised by the Organic Growers Alliance, supported  by the University of Sheffield and the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND:

 

If you’re a grower:• Build a consensus about what needs to be done to solve today’s problems and prepare for tomorrow’s• Help form a research & development strategy for organic horticulture that addresses your issues• Meet researchers and find out what they can do to help your business – explore the possibilities• Learn new skills to help structure your project planning and decision making

If you’re a researcher:• Meet end-users and understand their needs to better target your work and increase your impact• Initiate collaborations for your future funding opportunities

If you’re a supplier to the horticultural industry:• Understand how your business fits into the changing needs of horticulture• Build your links with growers and researchers• Display information about your business

 

WHAT YOU WILL BE DOING:

• Listening to “visions of the future of horticulture” by a leading grower and a leading scientist• Casting your votes to establish research and development priorities for organic horticulture• Learning new techniques for complex decision making• Creating knowledge webs and identifying knowledge gaps for organic horticulture• Learning how science might be able to help solve your existing issues, prepare for the future and confer a competitive advantage• Making new connections and having some fun!

 

WHAT IT WILL COST:

 

 

OGA member (growers)

Book up to 22ndFebruary:  Free (up to £50 costs available on application for travel)

Late booking after 22nd February: Free

OGA associate member

Book up to 22ndFebruary: Free

Late booking after 22nd February: £25

Non-members

Book up to 22ndFebruary: £50

Late booking after 22nd February: £75

 

Register here

 

UK Food Security Research- an urgent request for your help!

 

UK Food Security Research- an urgent request for your help!

 

We are currently working with the UK Global Food Security (GFS) Programme to identify key unanswered research questions which the UK Food System needs to address and I would like to ask for your help with this.

If you can spare just a few minutes to read and think about this message and then respond to me directly at anne.miller@esktn.org with your company and contact details, I will make sure that your thoughts are fed into the expert group who are currently engaged on this project, which will ultimately shape future research on food security (*see below for more details on the process).

 

Much of the recent focus in food security discussions has centred on the production of food and key research needs in agriculture. However, GFS are keen to widen this to incorporate activities throughout the food system, from processing to packaging, distribution, retail and consumption of food.  So the focus of this project is on the UK Food system over the next 10-15 years, considering food consumed within the UK, whatever its origins.

 

If you are working in any part of the food supply system please let me know what you consider to be key questions that are answerable by research but for which we currently have insufficient knowledge. The following criteria apply when formulating questions:

 

They must:

- be answerable through a realistic research design.

- have a factual answer that does not depend on value judgments.

- address important gaps in knowledge.

-  be of a spatial and temporal scope that reasonably could be addressed by a research team.

- not be formulated as a general topic area.

-  not be answerable with ‘it all depends’.

- not be answerable by yes or no (i.e. not ‘is X better for food safety than Y’) except if   questioning a precise statement (‘does the earth go round the sun?’).

-  if related to impact and interventions, contain a subject, an intervention, and a measurable outcome.

 

Example questions

These illustrate the type of questions we are after, but please don’t feel restricted to these categories or subjects. This is entirely your call.

 

- What constrains consumer acceptance of substitutes for traditional but scarce/unsustainable products?

- How do you measure the volatility in supply security?

- How do recent price fluctuations in food staples affect the diets and nutrition of the poorest sector of UK society?

- How effective is the sale of grade B fruit and vegetables for reducing food waste and increasing uptake of “5 a day”?

- What are the most cost-effective and efficient ways of capturing low-grade waste heat from the food processing industry?

- How sustainable is online shopping and home delivery compared with traditional supermarket visits?

- What determines the uptake and effectiveness of household organic waste collection?

- What would make a more comprehensive currency than simply carbon for assessing the breadth of ecosystem service values in the UK food system?

- What incentives will encourage farmers to increase the use of buffer strips along water courses to improve water quality?

- How will estuarine fisheries be affected by reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use?

- What are the health implications of using plant extracts to enhance the shelf-life of fresh fish?

- Which microbial monitoring techniques are most efficient and practical for new meat inspection legislation?

- How can we reduce the risk of enterobacteria developing in airtight damp-grain stores?

- How does domestic as opposed to international sourcing affect the acceptability of fresh produce?

- How can emerging crop diseases due to climate change best be managed without using additional pesticides?

- How can we modify potato supply chains to improve their resilience to future climate change?

 

* How this process works: The GFS research team will compile the long list of contender questions that will then be grouped and selected using a similar approach to that which was used in compiling the Top 100 Questions of Importance to Global Agriculture: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/earthscan/ijas/2010/00000008/00000004/art00001

The company and contact details requested will be confidential and are requested simply to ensure that the final selection includes a representative cross section of different stakeholder interests, and for me to come back to you with any request for clarification.

 

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Anne Miller,

Environmental Sustainability KTN. anne.miller@esktn.org

Good practice guidance for green infrastructure and biodiversity

A new report just released has been widely hailed by both ministers and NGOs as providing an excellent tool for those working on Green Infrastrutures. 

Jointly authored by The Town & Country Planning Association and The Wildlife Trusts Planning for a healthy environment – good practice guidance for green infrastructure and biodiversity is available to download here

Leaf/Syngenta/ESKTN workshop final recommendations

 

Supporting the work of the Green Food Project LEAF, Syngenta and the ESKTN (Environment Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network) held an event, supported by the UK Food Chain Alliance and BBSRC in March 2012. 

 

The workshop set out to explore the stresses and the need for compromises and change amongst informed stakeholders about what we want the UK’s farmed land and environment to deliver, through synergies and trade-offs, to meet the challenge of the increased need for producing food over the next 30 years in a sustainable manner.  Over 80 people attended the event where our objectives were to:

·               Engage key stakeholders to identify economic, environmental and social drivers, constraints and consequences for all sectors interested in, and impacting on the production and delivery of food in the UK.

·               Identify areas of interest and vision where there is overlap, opportunities or synergy.

·               Identify those areas where there is diversity of opinion and explore how this can be overcome, through tradeoffs and compromise, to reach a common vision, whilst building understanding, trust and respect.

·               Identify technology gaps, actions and next steps to realize the common vision and build trust along the food supply chain.

Three inspiring keynote presentations set the scene for the subsequent exploration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of both the challenges and the solutions. Through workshops and panel discussions the participants worked together, developing both within and cross-sector perspectives on the trade-offs required and the opportunities for innovation. A detailed report of the outcomes from each of the workshop groups, together with the striking and accessible ‘visual minutes’ of each one are available to download from both LEAF and ESKTN websites. These include summaries of the risks, the innovation opportunities and the trade-offs perceived by different groups.

10 key messages to policy makers, researchers and industry emerged from the workshop - all interdependent and we have been developing these over the last few months.  They are summarised below:

Key message 1.  Planning at the landscape level – To attain gains for food production whilst improving biodiversity and reducing impacts on the environment requires innovative planning at the landscape level, with the Ecosystem Services approach offering new opportunities to engage others (such a water companies) in this discussion.

Key message 2. Working across sectors – Recognition that to work on the challenges faced in implementing sustainable food and farming will require us to think, plan and capture value across all of the supply chain. Retailers are already providing a pull for farmers to work sustainably, and there are some good working examples of shared responsibility, such as business groups and LEAF Marque.  However more solutions need to share the value across the supply chain, through innovative approaches.

Key message 3. New mechanisms for sharing value and information – There was a strong agreement that trade-offs are necessary but priorities and perceived compromises were not agreed.  We need to start putting figures on the table and talking about trade-offs, supported by evidence. Better levels of integration between the key technologies underpinning ‘sustainable intensification’ are essential, with leadership required to establish mechanisms for sharing information and ideas.  There was a strong call for better integration, such as increased uptake of Integrated Farming, better integration across the food chain; landscape and government.   More research and pilot activities are urgently needed to explore how best to deliver intelligent solutions that optimise inputs, minimise the dependency on fossil fuel use and enhance the environment and resource effectiveness, with greater focus and resources provided for disseminating the outcomes of this research throughout the supply chain

Key message 4. Legislation and the speed of innovation:  The current regulatory environment (particularly in Europe) is now genuinely hindering investment in R&D and farming, primarily through escalating costs/timelines for registration/implementation.  This is causing money to seep elsewhere and depletes the incentive for companies to invest in developments, knowledge transfer and training in European farming since innovative technologies come to market very slowly. There was a strong call for legislation to be enabling and scientifically robust. There was a lack of public support for R&D in general and for applied research in particular, with a worrying lack of appreciation of the long term significance for food security and the competitiveness of our research in a global marketplace.

Key message 5. Water, energy and resource use: Efficient use of water and energy is key for sustainable farming. This includes precision farming solutions as well as effective integrated solutions i.e. the use of solar panels, windmills, human organic matter etc. Options for innovation and technology improvements included closed application systems (also better for reduced pollution), use of application robots as part of precision forming developments and closed loop systems for better resource use, but these will need more enabling and intelligent regulation.

Key message 6. Soils:  Combining the best of modern technology and innovation with the best of traditional management methods through the adoption of Integrated Farming, were key elements coming through many of the discussions: the importance of soil management and soil health, especially for water holding capacity and management, and looking to more use of organic matter again to replace nutrients as well as improve soil health.

Key message 7. Education and communication with the public/ along the supply chain – ‘Intensification’ is a term that should be avoided as it suggests increased yields at all costs: how can this perception be changed? Landscape and ecosystems approaches mean more tailored production to the location and media interest can support this understanding, with opportunities to build on Country File type programmes. The National Curriculum is being re-written, so there is an opportunity to influence this, with more emphasis on getting children to connect food with the environment  and farming, and encouraging more regular school farm visits (Open Farm Sunday is an effective way of encouraging these connections and we should look to strengthen this work). Options for innovation and technology developments included exploring and exploiting the potential of mobile phone ‘apps’ and interactive games to engage younger age groups.

Key message 8. More effective knowledge exchange There is significant potential to build on the effective knowledge exchange work of LEAF through it’s demonstration farms and management tools.  There is a need to clearly identify the key ambassadors among farmers, researchers, industry and environmentalists to support change.  For example, agronomists taking a much greater role in this, supplemented by more demonstration farms and LEAF activity.  Industry could support this by highlighting the whole ecosystem benefits of their products/services and the financial benefits of biodiversity schemes, but there is also a need for advice delivered by a trusted independent partner. Other innovations including mobile phone technology and social media have a key role to play.

Key message 9. Economic sustainability – Need to calculate, discuss and communicate the true financial aspects of sustainability.  Research, support mechanisms, economic instruments, market drivers and innovative solutions need to be further explored to enable more sustainable standards.  This should include possible CAP mechanisms, payments for Ecosystem Services, carbon sequestration, Biodiversity Offsetting, etc..

Key message 10. Farm business competitiveness and viability – the ability of farm businesses to respond to increasing pressures, regulatory, financial and value chain requirements, mean that modern farm businesses will have to develop a variety of new skill-sets and management techniques.  There is a need for the value chain as a whole to develop working models that ensure a more integrated and shared approach to responsible for ensuring these skills are in place right across the food chain.

 

We would welcome your comments on these key messages as we take them forward over the coming 6 months to ensure that we drive forward the changes, developments and activities we need to build a robust and resilient farming system.

 

Defra Green Food Project report launched today

In the Natural Environment White Paper, published in June 2011, there was a commitment to „bring together Government, industry and environmental partners to reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing food production". Defra's Green Food Project brought together representatives of farmers, manufacturers, retailers, caterers, environmentalists and scientists to work out how to reconcile the competing demands of producing more food and improving the environment.

 

Launched today at the Great Yorkshire Show, the initial report of the Green Food Project sets out the first steps on the road to: using less energy and water in food production; increasing crop yields; introducing more innovative technology; improving conservation management; and boosting numbers of talented, entrepreneurial young people making careers in the food industry.

Jim Paice said at the launch: “With our increasingly hungry world every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment. Britain already punches above its weight, but we’re a small island with limited space, so we’ve got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.

“We’re not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we’ve got to become more sustainable.”

More on this and the report is downloadable at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/food/environment/

Supporting the work of the Green Food Project LEAF, Syngenta and the ESKTN held a workshop in March, supported by the UK Food Chain Alliance and BBSRC, outputs from which are avalable here.

 

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services Business collaborations: Internship call launched

 

Call for short projects in the area of Business Engagement with Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services: apply by Friday 15th June 2012

 

NERC are funding a number of short projects / internships on Business Engagement with Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services, with ESKTN managing this call on behalf of NERC.

The objectives of this programme are to:

·         Initiate collaborations between academics and business or third sector organisation partners, leading to the application of ecosystem services approaches in longer term self-sustaining activities undertaken by partners

·         Generate evidence and case studies of how businesses and other organisations have used or could use ecosystem services approaches, in collaboration with academics, to introduce innovation into their business

·         Provide evidence concerning the effectiveness of policies intended to facilitate the development of ecosystem services approaches by businesses and third sector organisations.

More details are available here:

 

Contact ESKTN for an informal discussion by e-mailing the Administrator, Anna Baginska on anna.baginska@esktn.org  or telephoning 01865 610505.

Ecosystems Knowledge Network launched by Defra

Defra launches the Ecosystems Knowledge Network: a resource for anyone wanting to share knowledge or learn about the practical benefits of an ecosystems approach

A healthy natural environment is the foundation of a sustainable future with prospering communities.In the UK and elsewhere, pioneering projects are exploring new ways of managing land and sea environments and the benefits people derive from them. In particular, they are reflecting an ‘ecosystems approach’: a holistic and inclusive approach to promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and taking better account of the values people hold for the environment.

A new network has been sponsored by Defra with the aim of sharing experience from projects taking an ecosystems approach. The Ecosystems Knowledge Network will stimulate knowledge exchange and practical learning across the country, assisting organisations and groups to understand how an ecosystems approach can help build sustainable communities.

The Ecosystems Knowledge Network is free to join and open to anyone with an interest in an ecosystems approach. The Network will support the practical use of an ecosystems approach by:

  • Developing an active membership of people and organisations interested in benefiting from an ecosystems approach
  • Encouraging the sharing of information and experience between projects and between experts and newcomers to the approach
  • Engaging with and involving people who might not otherwise be aware of how an ecosystems approach can benefit them.

 

The Natural Capital Initiatve is developing the new Network in an independent partnership involving the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Fabis Consulting, the University of Exeter (Centre for Rural Policy Research) and Countryscape.The Network website and other communications are currently being developed.

 

In the meantime, for further information about the Network or to register your interest in joining, please visit http://www.naturalcapitalinitiative.org.uk/ekn

Natural Capital/ Ecosystem Services/ Biodiversity offsetting: what on earth are they about?

 

ESKTN are running a Natural Capital workshop in London on 13th March,  on behalf of the research community, in order to foster dialogue and encourage more businesses to think about their exposure to risk...from nature!

 

Admittedly the language is pretty off-putting, but the threats to business continuity are increasingly being recognised since we depend on nature to supply many of the raw materials and services that allow us to keep production levels increasing globally, and the costs of these keep on rising.

 

A number of major multinationals worked this out some time ago but we need to get the message out to smaller and medium sized businesses, that there are bottom-line benefits in building nature into your business planning and risk-management processes.

 

We will be lining up top speakers to explain what ecosystem valuation means, what natural capital is and to explore how can business benefit from getting to grips with biodiversity. 

 

I am also posting below some links to various recent publications in this area, which I hope will help to inform discussion and participation.

 

First of all there are supporting documents on  biodiversity offsetting (yes, it really does exist, and we will be hearing more about it from government as well as other businesses). http://bbop.forest-trends.org/documents/For_Companies_how_can_BBOP_help_Mar10.pdf

 

http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/biodiversity/offsetting/documents/110714offsetting-background.pdf

 

UPM, the forestry company, offers an example of a well-developed biodiversity strategy, having been a signatory to the UN's Leadership Declaration as part of a "Business and Biodiversity Initiative"  : http://www.upm.com/EN/RESPONSIBILITY/Forests/Biodiversity/Pages/default.aspx

 

There are also business case-studies available from PepsiCo, M&S, Puma, The Co-op, InterfaceFlor and Wilmott Dixon, published recently by the Aldersgate Group.

http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/reports

Puma have recently published their first Environmental Profit and Loss Account- more here

 

Flora and Fauna International and others supported the Natural Value Initiative in publishing  "Tread lightly: Biodiversity and ecosystem services risk and opportunity management  within the extractive industry". It presents case studies but also an excellent summary of the investment industry's interest in this area, and a clear glossary of the jargon!  http://www.fauna-flora.org/wp-content/uploads/NVI_extractive_industry_benchmark_summary.pdf

This follows on from their earlier ecosystems services benchmarking tool: 

http://www.naturalvalueinitiative.org/download/documents/Publications/EcoSysBenchmark.pdf

 

WBCSD has produced several relevant publications including guidelines for Corporate Ecosystem Valuation published in 2011  http://www.wbcsd.org/work-program/ecosystems/cev.aspx

and a new training programme on the links between business and ecosystems: http://www.wbcsd.org/bet.aspx

Together with the Meridien Institute and the World Resources Institute they have just published an updated version of their corporate ecosystem services review guidance: http://pdf.wri.org/corporate_ecosystem_services_review.pdf

 

The Global Reporting Initiative has recently proposed their approach for organizations to examine ecosystems as “service providers”: https://www.globalreporting.org/resourcelibrary/Approach-for-reporting-on-ecosystem-services.pdf

 

UNEP and the International Water Management Institute have recently produced a synthesis report on An Ecosystem Services Approach to Water and Food Security

An_Ecosystem_Services_Approach_to_Water_and_Food_Security_2011_UNEP-IWMI.pdf

 

Finally there is the UN's TEEB reports (The Economics Of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) including TEEB for Business available here:

 

The Natural Choice: new White paper published

 

The Natural Choice’, the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years, published on 7th June is directly linked to the groundbreaking research in the National Ecosystem Assessment published last week that showed the strong economic arguments for safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment.

 

The White Paper also acts on the recommendations of ‘Making Space for Nature’, a report into the state of England’s wildlife sites, led by Professor John Lawton and published in September 2010, which showed that England’s wildlife sites are fragmented and not able to respond to the pressures of climate change and other pressures we put on our land.

Launching ‘The Natural Choice’, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“The natural environment matters to us all – not just because it makes us feel good when we stumble across a bluebell wood or spot a pair of goldfinches, but because we are now all able to see the terrible price we would pay if we lost what we have or neglected to care for it. Nature belongs to us all, and we’ve all got a vested interest in protecting it.

“That’s why the true value of nature should be built in to the decisions we make – as individuals, organisations, businesses and governments – so that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it. This is what ‘The Natural Choice’ will help us all achieve.”

Key measures in the White Paper, which also takes forward recommendations contained in ‘Making Space for Nature’, include:

Reconnecting nature

New Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), transforming rural and urban areas and providing bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change. With a £7.5 million fund for 12 initial NIAs to demonstrate just what can be done. Professor Sir John Lawton has agreed to chair the panel to allocate funding.Biodiversity offsetting – new way for developers to ensure we don’t lose wildlife sites and make them better by making and improving other sites.New Local Nature Partnerships to strengthen joined-up action across local agencies and organisations, with a £1 million available this year.Phasing out peat – working with the horticulture industry to phase out peat use, which will help to protect and restore our peatlands, which are valuable carbon sinks, habitats and part of our ecological network. A task force to consider all options to phase out use of peat in the supply chain will be chaired by Dr Alan Knight OBE.

Connecting people and nature for better quality of life

Green Areas Designation allowing local communities to give protection to areas that are important to them for recreation, the view or their importance for wildlife.Better urban green spaces for the benefit of cities and towns. Support for parks, gardens, and tree planting which benefit people and nature alikeMore children experiencing nature by learning outdoors, through practical support to schools and reducing red-tape for outdoor learning.Strengthening local public health activities which connect people with nature for better healthNew environmental volunteering initiative “Muck in 4 Life” to improve places in towns and countryside for people and nature to enjoy.

Capturing and improving the value of nature

Natural Capital Committee – an independent body to report to the Government’s economic affairs committee chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This body will put the value of nature at the heart of the Government’s economic thinking, and advise Government about the best way of securing our natural assets for the future.An annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc – showing where our economy has withdrawn from the value of nature’s bank balance, and where we have invested in it. This will help measure green growth alongside GDP.A business-led Task Force chaired by Kingfisher Group Chief Executive Officer Ian Cheshire, to expand the UK business opportunities from new products and services which are good for the economy and nature alike.

The White Paper aims to improve the quality of the natural environment across England, halt the decline in habitats and species, and strengthen the connection between people and nature. The new way of looking at nature will help the growth of a green economy which treats natural capital in a responsible and fair way, encouraging businesses to use that capital sustainably. The actions contained in the Natural Environment White Paper will create a radical shift on how we view our natural assets by incorporating the natural environment into economic planning and ensuring there are opportunities for businesses that are good for nature and good for a strong green economy.

“In the past we have undervalued what our natural environment gives us,” Caroline Spelman addedThis White Paper changes that, because we cannot afford to make the same mistakes again.

“We can all gain from the economic, social, and health benefits nature gives us, but we need to recognise that if we withdraw something from Mother Nature’s Bank, we’ve got to put something back in to ensure that the environment has a healthy balance and a secure future.

“What I’d really like to see happening as a result of this White Paper is more children enjoying nature and continuing that interest into adulthood, so that they pass that passion for the environment down through the generations. That would be a legacy well worth leaving.”

 

Read the paper at:

http://www.archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/natural/documents/newp-white-paper-110607.pdf

New tools allow us to put economic value to Nature's 'free' services

 

Exciting times at Defra!

Today saw the launch  of the UK's National Ecosystem Assessment, a ground-breaking project which has developed a set of tools that will allow many of Nature's 'free' services to be given economic values, opening up the possibility of such services appearing on national (and business) balance sheets for the first time.

 

Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,) and, significantly, Oliver Letwin (Minister of State for Policy) were both on hand to welcome this report and spoke very highly of how it will be utilised to direct Government's forthcoming policy developments, starting with the Natural Environment White Paper which is due out shortly, followed by the Water White paper.

 

The report draws on the expertise of hundreds of UK scientists and demonstrates that Nature is worth billions of pounds to the UK economy, as well as providing a wide array of other benefits e.g. contributions to health and social well-being. 

 

Defra say of the report:

'The assessment provides values for a range of ecosystem services to help us fully understand the value of the natural environment and how the benefits to individuals and society as a whole can be better protected and preserved for future generations.

Examples include:

The benefits that inland wetlands bring to water quality are worth up to £1.5billion per year to the UK

Pollinators are worth £430million per year to British agriculture

The amenity benefits of living close to rivers, coasts and other wetlands is worth up to£1.3billion per year to the UK

The health benefits of living with a view of a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year.

The UK NEA shows that the tendency to focus only on the market value of resources we can use and sell, such as timber, crops and fisheries, has led to the decline of some ecosystems and habitats through pollution, over-exploitation, and land conversion.'

 

All of the documents that contributed to this assessment as well as a summary report are available to download at:

http:// http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/

 

Defra's Chief Scientist, Prof. Bob Watson, who co-chaired the UK NEA says 

“There is an urgent need to better manage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provide us with. But until now there has been no clear way of valuing the full range of benefits they provide beyond what we can buy and sell. The UK NEA introduces groundbreaking approaches to measure the value of these services and how they will be affected in future if we do not make the right choices now.

“The NEA shows that we need a more integrated approach to ecosystem management, involving Government, the private sector, voluntary groups and the public working together to protect the services nature provides”

 

Industry and Business will be a key part of taking this forward, so ESKTN will be carrying out project work in this area, aiming to engage everyone in our community: so keep watching here for more details!

 

Watch Prof. Bob Watson explain more at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzgeShn5seg&feature=player_embedded

 

 

Calling anyone who provides measurement and diagnostic technologies for cattle and sheep production

 

The Biosciences KTN is seeking support from the Environmental Sustainability KTN community in identifying new technologies for measurement and diagnostics for use in cattle, sheep, grassland or animal feed (the “ruminant livestock” industries).  

There are opportunities for companies to present or showcase their technologies at the Ruminant Innovation Networking Event that will be held on May 18th in Edinburgh.

This could be a new opportunity to apply your technology in a new sector. For example, a company may have a new sensor that could be used to monitor methane production levels, that is of interest to animal scientists and cattle and sheep breeders to help reduce environmental emissions and improve production efficiency – and there are likely to be many other new innovation opportunities. This event provides the opportunity to network, and develop new collaboration and business opportunities by bringing together different sectors, who may not usually meet.

For more details, please go to /web/rumens-and-ruminants-interest-group/networking-event

 

Places at the event are limited, so please register as soon as possible.

Who says farmers don't use IT? BigBarn brings the Big Society to farming

The sustainable agriculture round table discussion group at last night's Guardian Sustainable Business network  found ourselves discussing how many farmers are now making use of all sorts of IT in creative and innovative ways: a prime example being Anthony Davidson, a 5th generation farmer who decided  to diversify using the power of the internet over 10 years ago when he set up BigBarn: I quote:

"BigBarn is a Community Interest Company that has been trading for 10 years.  Our mission is to reconnect consumers with their local food producers and encourage trade.  

BigBarn.co.uk has 6,700 producers listed as icons and 23,000 consumers receiving our post code specific newsletter.   All those on the map have a password to update their details and consumers are encouraged to rate and feedback on each producer.

So far 399 producers have also set up online shops in our MarketPlace where consumers can buy anything from Seaweed & langoustine from the Isle of Bute to Haggis from Lancashire and pay with one credit card transaction."

For more about the project which continues to expand nationwide and to try it out for yourself go to: 

http://www.bigbarn.co.uk/

Just released: The Edinburgh Declaration on Reactive Nitrogen

This week over 350 scientists, policymakers, industry and NGO representatives gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland at the ‘Nitrogen and Global Change’ international conference.

During the week the first European Nitrogen Assessment was published, the impact of reactive nitrogen on Europe’s wildlife and forests was discussed, and a Nitrogen footprint calculator was launched.

At the closing session of the conference the delegates agreed a statement ‘The Edinburgh Declaration on Reactive Nitrogen’ outlining mechanisms for tackling the threats of nitrogen pollution in Europe and beyond. 

The Edinburgh declaration:

  • acknowledges the importance of reducing reactive nitrogen emissions to the environment, stating that there are many options for reducing emissions where the benefits for society clearly outweigh the costs of taking action to reduce these emissions 
  • acknowledges that further communication, education and awareness raising of the nitrogen problem to industry, farmers, retail, policy makers and society at large is required for increasing insight into and support for the options to reduce the impacts of nitrogen pollution
  • recognises the need to make the links associated with nitrogen between different international conventions including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, the UNECE Water Convention, Oslo and Paris Commission, the Helsinki Commission, and European directives, and that nitrogen plays a key role in the issues addressed by these international treaties and policy instruments
  • agrees that the estimated health damage by nitrogen air pollution, contributing to significant reductions in average lifetime of European citizens, confirms the continued need to reduce these emissions
  • agrees that an overall strategy to reduce the losses and adverse impacts of reactive nitrogen on society should be focused on improving nitrogen use efficiency, particularly in agriculture, which can provide significant financial benefits to farmers and society as a whole.

The full text of the 23 point Edinburgh declaration can be found here: 

http://www.nitrogen2011.org/edinburgh_declaration

 

The European Nitrogen Assessment launch video can be viewed on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuwN6qxM7BU

 

The European Nitrogen Assessment published by Cambridge University Press is available to download from the Nitrogen in Europe (NinE) website

http://www.nine-esf.org/ENA-Book

 

The Nitrogen Deposition and Natura 2000 study looking at the impact of nitrogen pollution on wildlife is available to download from 

http://cost729.ceh.ac.uk/n2kworkshop

 

For more information on the nitrogen footprint calculator visit 

http://www.n-print.org/

 

 

For further information on nitrogen research and policy contact:

 

Lead editor of the European Nitrogen Assessment, Dr Mark Sutton, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology ms@ceh.ac.uk

 

Nitrogen and Global Change Conference,lead organizer, Dr Stefan Reis, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology srei@ceh.ac.uk

 

Nitrogen footprint calculator, Professor Jan Willem Erisman, Energy research Centre of the Netherlands, Free University Amsterdam Erisman@ecn.nl

 

Nitrogen and wildlife, Natura 2000 study, Dr Kevin Hicks, University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute kevin.hicks@york.ac.uk

 

Reactive nitrogen, European forests and the greenhouse gas balance, Professor Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, Karlsruhe University, Germany klaus.butterbach-bahl@kit.edu

 

International Nitrogen Initiative, Dr Cheryl Palm, Columbia University, New York, USA cpalm@ei.columbia.edu

      

Launch of a truly landmark study: European Nitrogen Assessment

 

11th April saw the publication of an exemplary continental scale assessment  of reactive nitrogen in the environment.. A landmark because it not only reviews and environmental and societal threats, but also includes the first cost-benefit analysis for different forms of reactive nitrogen and considers future scenarios.

Co-ordinated by Dr Mark Sutton of CEH, with more than 200 experts from 89 different organisations contirbuting to the 600+ page report, it addresses the issues associated with reactive nitrogen at each level from field to farm and city up to national and continental scales, emphasising the opportunities for better management at each level.

 

It has a really useful technical synoposis and summary for policy makers and is full of useful information and tools for imporving communication: for example just check out the introductory video on You-tube: 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuwN6qxM7BU

 

The whole book is available as pdf chapters at the European Science Foundation website, since they were one of the major contributors to funding the project. 

http://www.nine-esf.org/ENA-Book

 

Chapter 26 is particularly useful for those lookiing at how best to communicate the complex messages in a simple way. Pity that some of the media who picked this story up on Monday did not look more at this rather than just focusssing on the economics headlines, which for the curious are:

 The annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe is £60-£280 billion (70-320 billion euros).

The cost to each person in Europe is around £130-£650 (150-740 euros).

LIFE+ 2011 call for proposals

 

The 2011 call for proposals was published on 26/02/2011, with €267 million available for new environmental projects. The deadline for submission is the 18/07/2011 with a time frame as detailed below:

 

26/02/2011Publication of the call

18/07/2011  Deadline for applicants to send proposals to Member State authorities  

09/09/2011 Deadline for the Member States to forward proposals to the European Commission 

September 2011 to March 2012  Admissibility, exclusion and eligibility, evaluation and revision of the proposals     

May-June 2012 Signature of individual grant agreements 

01/06/2012  Earliest possible starting date for the 2011 projects

 

The LIFE+ programme comprises three components, all with relevance to land management and ecosystems services:

 

LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity

LIFE+ Environment Policy & Governance

LIFE+ Information & Communication

 

For more info and application packs go to:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/funding/lifeplus2011/call/index.htm

New opportunities to improve soil and crop management and another great networking event!

 

We were certainly in the right venue to be talking about innovation and the opportunities presented by new technologies for tackling enviromental challenges, under the gaze of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, who were in the same room when they announced their theory of Natural Selection more than 150 years earlier.

 

The workshop which was run in partnership between our KTN and Biosciences KTN attracted plenty of diversity, both in the 80 or more participants (who came from across the research community, industry, farmers and growers) and in the topics covered during a very packed day.

 

The shift from a chemical to a biological basis for crop production and soil management was highlighted from the start of the day, followed by exploring the potential importance of applied maths and physics in developing new models which will facilitate more efficient use of resources and also achieve better outputs in terms of yields and environmental protection.

 

Plenty of discussion and networking, everyone keen to exchange ideas and information that will help us to respond effectively to challenges such as climate change, drought and more sustainable ways of combatting pests and diseases and maintaining crop production and soil health.

 

Well done to Tom Jenkins and his team for putting together such a stimulating day!

After the carbon hoofprint, now the cure for bovine insomnia.....

 

An agricultural company based in Northern Ireland has received funding to design and manufacture an exciting unique pillow for cows which could attract the attention of foreign investors.

J Wilson Agriculture, from Garvagh, is being aided by Invest Northern Ireland for the production of the new comfort product, moovApillow.

Significant future investment deals and export opportunities are a real possibility as companies look to benefit from the latest innovative product emerging from Northern Ireland.

The adjustable pillow, which aims to enhance the living conditions and therefore productivity of dairy cows, would be the first of its kind.

 

 

Carol Keery, Invest NI's Director of Innovation, Research and Technology, said: "This is an innovative development by an experienced and successful manufacturer of a range of products that improve conditions for cows.

"It is being launched at a time when the dairy industry here in particular is facing calls to improve efficiency and productivity. This company has invested extensively in new products particularly in the highly innovative pillow."

Andrew Wilson, J Wilson Agriculture Managing Director, outlining the investment, said: "The new pillow is the outcome of our long-standing focus on products, including cow stalls and mattresses, which improve conditions substantially for cows and horses.

"Research shows that a comfortable cow produces higher levels and better quality of milk. The latest product, a one piece, high absorbency and robust pillow, helps farmers meet the challenge for higher milk production. Given the volatility in milk prices over recent years, anything that helps to increase production can lead to better yields and returns for dairy farmers."

 more at http://www.wilsonagri.co.uk

 

Sustainable Protein Production call announced

 

 

£15 million research and development competition to focus on

Sustainable Protein Production

 

The Technology Strategy Board – in partnership with Defra, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Scottish Government – is launching a collaborative research and development competition with up to £15 million available to invest in projects focusing on the challenge of Sustainable Protein Production. 

 

The initiative is open to all UK-based companies and research organisations, either through business-to-business or science-to-business collaborations.  Project proposals, which must be business-led, should focus on either or both of the following areas:

-          Increasing  the domestic supply of sustainably produced vegetable protein for feeding farmed animals (including land and marine based aquaculture), and

-          Increasing the efficiency of production and sustainability of domestically supplied animal and fish protein for food and reducing waste in the food chain to the point of retail sale.

 

Project proposals could include, but are not limited to, innovative solutions addressing one or more of the areas listed below.  The Technology Strategy Board will be seeking a balanced portfolio of proposals.

 

-          Plant breeding & genetic improvement of existing and novel feed protein sources;

-          Novel  sources of protein for farmed animals and fish;

-          Crop production, storage & processing to improve usable protein yield, including co-product utilisation  and reduced wastage;

-          Increasing the efficiency of protein production (meat & milk) from grassland and forage based systems, with particular reference to reducing net environmental impact;

-          Animal genetics, digestion and gut function, reproduction and fertility;

-          Animal nutrition, feeds, feed additives, feed processing and improved feeding management;

-          Rumen microbiology and function;

-          Animal health and welfare & disease management ;

-          Novel and innovative animal production systems, including feeding, housing and waste management;

-          Animal performance monitoring & data capture;

-          Supply chain integration & enabling technologies & strategies to optimise commercial yield of animal protein and reduce waste;

-          Environmental management technologies that support efficient livestock production and processing of livestock products.

 

As part of the competition process a series of one day consortium building workshops will take place, on 11, 15 and 17 February.  These will provide a networking forum for potential participants to facilitate the development of project ideas.  For further information about the competition, including details of the workshops, please visit the Competitions page of the Technology Strategy Board website at: http://www.innovateuk.org/competitions/competitionsearch.ashx

 

To join the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform networking group please visit: /web/sustainable-agriculture-and-food-innovation-platform/overview

 

The partners in this competition for collaborative research and development programme – the Technology Strategy Board, Defra, BBSRC and the Scottish Government – are also partners in the Global Food Security programme.

 

Details of the consortium building workshops are on previous posting 

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