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What Do We Need to Know to Enhance the Environmental Sustainability of Agricultural Production? A Prioritisation of Knowledge Needs for the UK Food System

Author(s): Lynn V. Dicks | Richard D. Bardgett | Jenny Bell | Tim G. Benton | Angela Booth | Jan Bouwman | Chris Brown | Ann Bruce | Paul J. Burgess | Simon J. Butler | Ian Crute | Frances Dixon | Caroline Drummond | Robert P. Freckleton | Maggie Gill | Andrea Graham | Rosie S. Hails | James Hallett | Beth Hart | Jon G. Hillier | John M. Holland | Jonathan N. Huxley | John S. I. Ingram | Vanessa King | Tom MacMillan | Daniel F. McGonigle | Carmel McQuaid | Tim Nevard | Steve Norman | Ken Norris | Catherine Pazderka | Inder Poonaji | Claire H. Quinn | Stephen J. Ramsden | Duncan Sinclair | Gavin M. Siriwardena | Juliet A. Vickery | Andrew P. Whitmore | William Wolmer | William J. Sutherland

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 5;
Issue: 7;
Start page: 3095;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: agriculture | environment | knowledge gaps | sustainability | farming | retail | food

Increasing concerns about global environmental change and food security have focused attention on the need for environmentally sustainable agriculture. This is agriculture that makes efficient use of natural resources and does not degrade the environmental systems that underpin it, or deplete natural capital stocks. We convened a group of 29 ‘practitioners’ and 17 environmental scientists with direct involvement or expertise in the environmental sustainability of agriculture. The practitioners included representatives from UK industry, non-government organizations and government agencies. We collaboratively developed a long list of 264 knowledge needs to help enhance the environmental sustainability of agriculture within the UK or for the UK market. We refined and selected the most important knowledge needs through a three-stage process of voting, discussion and scoring. Scientists and practitioners identified similar priorities. We present the 26 highest priority knowledge needs. Many of them demand integration of knowledge from different disciplines to inform policy and practice. The top five are about sustainability of livestock feed, trade-offs between ecosystem services at farm or landscape scale, phosphorus recycling and metrics to measure sustainability. The outcomes will be used to guide on-going knowledge exchange work, future science policy and funding.

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