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Harper Forum report: Professor Ian Crute of the AHDB

Posted 10 December 2010

Professor Ian Crute with Harper Forum Chairman, Sam Bales

By Charlotte Harley, Harper Forum Reporter.

The final Harper Forum of the term welcomed Professor Ian Crute, Chief Scientist of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), to speak about agriculture in a changing climate.

Professor Crute's objective was to provoke thought into the need for ‘Sustainable Intensification’ in our agricultural practices, thinking and development.

Therefore, maximising the solar energy used whilst also considering these vital concepts:

• Land to be used for the correct enterprise-whether for animal or human feed.
• Manipulating and managing the genotype.
• Improving the management and reduction of waste produced.
• Understanding that there aren't always win-win situations and the need to remain focussed.

Professor Crute feels that the UK is fully able to maximise on these break-throughs and be a key contributor to the world’s knowledge and advancement.

Since John Law’s research at Rothamsted and the Broadbalk experiment, the UK has proven itself to be a player in crop enhancement. Also, Sir John Beddington’s concept of the ‘Perfect Storm’ summarising the growing need to cater for increasing population, increasing urbanisation, decrease poverty levels, and climate change has further pushed food production to the centre-stage.

Professor Crute said that all of this contributes to the growing need for another ‘revolution’ in the crop industry. The UK will need to feed a further 13.8% of the population by 2028, meaning the need to almost double the current wheat output.

He believes that this revolution has to come from efficient genetics in our crops and livestock.

This brought the production triangle to the attention of the Forum - Genotype, Production Environment, and Environmental Impact.

This shows that even though there is a push for food production, the environmental consideration is still a crucial part and it's important to realise what we are prepared to pay for our food, landscape and way of life.

In summary of Professor Crute’s points; the UK is a small world player in agricultural output, however it has the potential to be a big player in development. Priorities must be to increase output whilst decreasing the water needed, land needed, energy needed, waste produced and GHG emissions.

The Harper Forum reconvenes after Christmas on January 20 with Mr Mark Hudson, Farm Business Consultant and previous Chairman of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

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