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Crunch Time for Crops and Conservation

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Article written by 18 July 2012

Opposition speaks on making intensification of farming sustainable for our wildlife

Huw Irranca-Davies MP, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food will outline the latest Opposition thinking on how to ensure modern farming can still increase our precious farmland wildlife at the Game & Wildlife Conservation All Party Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday 10th July.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) works to reconcile the need to intensify food production with conserving our declining wildlife populations and natural resources – an escalating challenge for policy makers, conservationists and farmers. To show the art of the possible, the  GWCT has published a definitive analysis outlining 20-years of ground-breaking research in a new report called Fields for the Future.

Huw Irranca-Davies said: ‘We face a perfect storm of competing pressures for land, the need for food security and affordability, protection and enhancement of biodiversity, and the impacts of climate change.”

Huw Irranca-Davies continued: ‘If sustainable intensification is to be more than the latest fad, it must address these issues together. This is not an issue for farmers or landowners alone, nor simply for policy-makers. It has to be for society as a whole to determine how we shape our future food production, landscape, wildlife and environment.

Mr Irranca-Davies also welcomed the new 20–year report published by the GWCT’s Allerton Project farm, which identifies how the research is leading the world in finding novel ways of boosting birds and insects, while safeguarding the food on our plate and conserving our soil, water and energy.

The report, “Fields for the future” catalogues 20 years of revolutionary research and detailed monitoring that has been carried out on the Allerton Project farm in Loddington in Leicestershire.

During the 20 year experiment:

  • song bird numbers doubled
  • pollution in the rivers and streams from agriculture was controlled
  • successful climate change mitigation measures were initiated, and
  • 68 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture were offset through renewable      energy production.

Dr Alastair Leake, from the GWCT’s Allerton Project explained to the APPG, “Advances in modern technology and science have enabled us to work much more efficiently and effectively to achieve results.  We have identified the most and least productive areas on the farm and have exploited these so that we can maximise yields, whilst boosting birds, game, insects, rare arable plants, fish and water dwelling species.  The practical nature of our experiment means that it provides a workable blueprint that other farmers can follow.

Also speaking at the event was Christopher Musgrave, a leader of the only farmer-led Nature Improvement Area (NIA) that was recently approved by Natural England. Mr Musgrave explained how farmers are sometimes painted as the villains but given the right support and tools for the job they are in fact the main drivers of change who will reconcile the needs of producing food whilst protecting the environment.  Mr Musgrave said, “The NIA is a wonderful opportunity of combining both intensive farming with care for the environment but on a landscape scale.  Working with 41 other farmers we are fast-tracking wildlife conservation across the Marlborough Downs and in the next three years we aim to achieve amazing things for wildlife and nature, which will have a long-lasting impact on the area for both wildlife and people.”

Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is the leading UK charity conducting scientific research to enhance the British countryside for public benefit. Read more.

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