Keywords: Agriculture, food production, trade-off, nitrogen fertiliser, productivity, genetic improvement, knowledge transfer
Sustainable intensification is a term that has been coined in order to describe the need for global agriculture to produce more food on a limited amount of available land, with lower inputs and less environmental impact. In reality it is about balancing a number of different trade-offs, at different scales between increasing productivity on managed land and the impacts on the wider environment. A number of different studies have gone some way to quantifying these trade-offs in terms of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Impacts on biodiversity have proven much more difficult to quantify. Innovation in agriculture is vital in order to deliver sustainable intensification. There is some evidence to suggest that crop yield improvements have plateaued. Genetic technologies can be harnessed to improve the yield potential of crops but this potential can only be realised if the cropping environment is managed optimally. Innovative tools and technologies are required in order to better understand the spatial and temporal variability of soil for improved management and better targeting of nutrient applications. A continued investment in ground-breaking research which increases knowledge, provides new insights and opens up new technological opportunities is essential but is not sufficient. There is an urgent need to build back the motivation, capacity and skills to translate science into practice through the varied processes of knowledge exchange.
S M Bolton and I R Crute, AHDB, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2TL, UK.
12 pages, 2 figures, 9 references.