Wheat crop on an arable farm in England

Wheat crop on an arable farm in England photo: Paul Fisher

A new study, led by Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) scientists, calls for ecological measures to ensure sufficient and nutritious food supplies for a growing global population despite the challenges of climate change and land degradation.

Professors James Bullock and Richard Pywell, who published the review in a special issue of the Journal of Ecology, focused on ecological solutions to global food security, and suggest how policy makers and farmers can mitigate emerging threats to food production.

Recommendations by the authors include:

  • Greater involvement of ecologists in farm management to offer advice on crop diversification and livestock systems. This is to help increase food production resilience when faced with chronic and acute environmental challenges such as drought and disease.
  • More research on nutritional diversity.
  • At the field scale there is not only the need to consider mixtures of crop varieties but also livestock breeds and forage species.
  • The need to boost ecosystem functions such as pollination and natural pest control.
  • Supporting research findings by Haddad et al who have suggested that additional research should focus on yield resilience of neglected fruits and vegetables.

The review was carried out under the Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems (ASSIST) programme which looks at how modern agriculture must boost food production for a growing population, while reducing environmental damage.

Professor Bullock said, “The threats to global food security from climate change and land degradation are very real and potentially severe. We need to look at finding ways by which modern agriculture can provide food to meet the needs of an ever expanding world population."

He added, “There are a number of options that can strengthen agroecosystem resilience through improved biodiversity using the current evidence base. There are already a number of ecological solutions at the field, farm, regional and global scale, which can be used to maintain food supply.”

Additional information

Full paper reference: Bullock, J M, Dhanjal-Adams, K L, Milne, A, Oliver, T H, Todman, L C, Whitmore, A P and Pywell, R F. (2017), Resilience and food security: rethinking an ecological concept. J Ecol, 105: 880–884. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12791

Special issue of the Journal of Ecology

Staff page of Professor James Bullock, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Staff page of Professor Richard Pywell, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Watch a short video overview of the ASSIST programme:

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) this month (July 2017) published two relevant briefings regarding the security of UK food supply and environmentally sustainable agriculture – the latter of which included input from Professor Richard Pywell.

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