Farmers need science to meet the challenges ahead

Farmers' leader Peter Kendall told a Norfolk audience last night that food producers will need all the tools available from scientists to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Farmers' leader Peter Kendall told a Norfolk audience last night that food producers will need all the tools available from scientists to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Science remains as important as it was during the "green revolution" of 50 years ago when improved plant breeding and machinery gave a major boost to crop yields and productivity, said Mr Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union.

"Farmers can help mitigate climate change, meet their environmental responsibilities and feed a growing population but they must have the latest technology, from new crop varieties to vaccines," he said.

And Britain and the rest of the European Union risk being stranded in the slow lane if more investment in vital research and development is not made.


You may also want to watch:


Mr Kendall was giving the annual Friends of the John Innes Centre annual lecture at Colney on Norwich Research Park on the theme of "Science for 21st century agriculture - how to farm for food, fuel and the environment".

Science and technology have been crucial in agricultural history, allowing huge leaps forward in production and food safety and supporting major population growth.

Most Read

"The challenges for the 21st century are greater still. Farmers will have to grow more food in the next 50 years than over the past 10,000 years combined, while also contributing to energy security by growing crops for renewable fuels," he said.

While yield increases have started to slow, and climate change means farmers are facing an increasingly difficult battle with nature to produce crops, Mr Kendall, who spoke to Norfolk NFU members last week, said that the government was 'cutting and slaughtering' research and development budgets.

"It has never been clearer when you see the challenges because of bluetongue and avian influenza in this last few months. Those are two really good examples to say to government 'wake up'."

Future progress requires the government to base regulation and policy on sound science and to overcome any fear and mistrust of technology in food production.

Scientists should concentrate on research projects with a practical application for agriculture, such as finding ways of adapting to and mitigating climate change.

"Science and technology are essential in meeting the climate change challenge and making the most of the opportunities it will offer to British farmers," said Mr Kendall.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus