£2 million awarded to support sustainable agriculture in the UK

21 June 2018

Four new interdisciplinary projects have received £1·8 million to improve the sustainability of UK farming.

With a rapidly increasing global population set to reach 9·7 billion by 2050, coupled with environmental change, the challenge of feeding the world has never been greater. Making UK farming more robust, resilient and sustainable will improve the UK's ability to feed itself, whilst also benefitting the global food system more broadly.

Funded in the third round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club (SARIC), the grants have been awarded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and NERC, alongside 12 other industry partners. SARIC supports interdisciplinary projects to provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.

The projects include exploring biological management strategies to control insect populations and investigation of the use of sheep in arable rotations. The funded translational projects include a novel soil health monitoring approach for livestock farming and development of a farmer decision support tool to assist with systemic grassland management.

Aligning with the research priorities of in the 25 year plan published by the Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affair (Defra) in January 2018, these projects will help improve the UK's soil health, as well as reduce the use of artificial pesticides.

NERC Director of Science & Innovation Professor Tim Wheeler said:

SARIC's unique approach to supporting research and innovation projects at the interface of biological, environmental and social science offers a fantastic opportunity to address the industry-led challenges of developing more resilient and robust crop and livestock systems and building predictive capability and modelling technologies for UK agriculture.

The four new projects focusing on grassland management, soil health monitoring, biological crop protection and the use of sheep in arable rotations represent the diversity of the sector and of SARIC's portfolio of funded work. The success of this initiative is testament to the strength of the partnership between the three councils and SARIC's 12 industry members, and I look forward to seeing the impacts delivered from this £10 million investment.

BBSRC's Executive Director for Innovation & Skills Dr Karen Lewis said:

These four new projects funded through the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club will contribute towards developing novel technologies and improving farming practises to increase the sustainability of the UK agricultural sector.

Through joint investment between BBSRC, NERC and ESRC, together with the 12 industry members of the club, we are pleased to have awarded £10 million funding into a diverse range of research and research translation projects over the last four years. These projects have focused on the industry-led challenges of developing more resilient and robust crop and livestock systems and building predictive capability and modelling technologies for UK agriculture. SARIC continues to play an important role in fostering academic-industry collaboration to address these important issues for the future of UK farming.

SARIC was launched in 2014 following consultation with trade associations, levy boards, policymakers and academia. The discussions identified a need to bring together researchers from the environmental, biological and social sciences with industry to translate knowledge for the purpose of progressing towards more sustainable agricultural systems and technological solutions.

Industry partners in SARIC benefit from improved connectivity with the UK research base and early access to research and translation outcomes. This five year public-private partnership has resulted in approximately £10 million being invested in academic-led research projects to address key industry challenges, with £1 million of this funding resulting from industry partner membership subscriptions.

SARIC funded research grants

Principal investigator Organisation Title Value
David Chandler University of Warwick Biological crop protection: a new 'slow down/speed up' strategy for aphid management £598,696
Jonathan Leake University of Sheffield Restoring soil quality through re-integration of leys and sheep into arable rotations £755,670

The translational research projects will establish new collaborations to tackle the challenges of sustainable intensification in agriculture:

SARIC funded research translation grants

Principal investigator Organisation Title Value
Davey Jones Bangor University Breaking the barriers to soil testing on pastures (Breaking-STEP) £226,410
Paul Burgess Cranfield University SARIC translation: Grassland management £199,878