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AGRICULTURAL R&D IN THE UK NEEDS A NEW VISION. Professor David Leaver A paper prepared for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agricultural Science and Technology. WHY DO WE NEED A NEW VISION?. Professor John Beddington (Government Chief Scientific Adviser)

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agricultural r d in the uk needs a new vision
AGRICULTURAL R&D IN THE UKNEEDS A NEW VISION

Professor David Leaver

A paper prepared for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agricultural Science and Technology

why do we need a new vision
WHY DO WE NEED A NEW VISION?

Professor John Beddington (Government Chief Scientific Adviser)

  • ‘A world food crisis can be expected in the coming decades as our demand for food outstrips our ability to produce it’
  • ‘no simple solution and is calling for more agricultural research as a matter of urgency to help tackle the problem’

Professor Ian Crute (Director of Rothamsted Research)

  • ‘We must significantly elevate production without cultivating more land while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on non-renewable products and practices’
but agricultural r d in the uk is in severe decline
BUT AGRICULTURAL R&D IN THE UKIS IN SEVERE DECLINE
  • Withdrawal over a 20 year period of government funding for agricultural research aimed at improving productivity and competitiveness
  • Closure of research institutes, HE colleges and university departments of agriculture
  • Loss of extension service (in England and Wales) and closure of demonstration farms.
  • Increasing emphasis on funding universities and research institutes for basic science research with the expectation that the industry will fund the applied research
funding of agricultural r d
FUNDING OF AGRICULTURAL R&D
  • Public funding of agricultural R&D has declined in most developed countries, but more in the UK than elsewhere
  • Average public agricultural R&D spend for developed countries is about 2.3% of agricultural GDP with a further 2.9% from private sources1
  • Secretary of State said at Oxford that Defra and BBSRC collectively invest £138m in research for the industry (2.4% of agricultural GVA)
  • But it remains unclear what proportion of this is directed towards supporting agricultural productivity and competitiveness

1 Pardey, PG, Beintema, N and Wood, S (2006) Agricultural research. A growing divide? http://www.ifpri.org

the industry does not have the capacity to fund all applied research
THE INDUSTRY DOES NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY TO FUND ALL APPLIED RESEARCH
  • The policy changes in publicly-supported science research have hit agriculture harder than other sectors as it is made up of micro-businesses too small to fund applied research individually
  • The AHDB levy bodies funded by the industry do not have the financial capacity to replace the loss of government funding (collectively they support research equivalent to approx 0.3% of agricultural GVA)
  • A few farmer subscription groups have taken on some R&D funding initiatives (eg The Arable Group, Maize Growers Association, Kingshay Trust)
policies on r d funding have eroded applied r d capability
POLICIES ON R&D FUNDING HAVE ERODED APPLIED R&D CAPABILITY
  • Policies especially the Research Assessment Exercise in universitieshave reduced the status of applied research
  • The result is that universities and research institutes provide few career opportunities for young people interested in research to increase agricultural productivity
  • Equally there are few scholarships available for PhD training in applied agricultural research, and where such scholarships are available there are few UK applicants due to lack of a career progression route
  • The remaining agricultural scientists involved in research directly linked to the industry are getting older and fewer (eg report by Rothamsted Research Association)
has the decline in applied r d reduced the industry s competitiveness 1
HAS THE DECLINE IN APPLIED R&D REDUCED THE INDUSTRY’S COMPETITIVENESS? (1)

‘The UK started out in the high-growth club (of agricultural productivity) but has joined the poorer performers since the reductions in public R&D in the 1980’s’

‘…the UK system is still dominated by basic R&D which indeed the government suggested it should be. Near market adaptive research was left to the private sector. This may be the wrong prescription for the new millennium’

Thirtle and Holding (2003) Productivity of UK agriculture. Causes and constraints. Chapter 4. http://statistics.defra.gov.uk

has the decline in applied r d reduced the industry s competitiveness 2
HAS THE DECLINE IN APPLIED R&D REDUCED THE INDUSTRY’S COMPETITIVENESS? (2)
  • The Thirtle and Holding paper provides clear evidence (using TFP estimates1) that the UK is falling behind in growth of agricultural productivity and in competitiveness with other countries
  • The lack of competitiveness since the mid- 1980’s certainly coincides with government policies of withdrawing support for agricultural R&D
  • And possibly is one factor in the reducing contribution of UK agriculture to UK food supplies (decline of about 1% per year in self-sufficiency over the last decade)

1 Total Factor Productivity. Final output at market prices per unit of all inputs including fixed capital and labour

priority research objectives
PRIORITY RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

Research is needed to develop new approaches to production systems:

  • Reducing reliance of production systems on fossil fuels (develop systems that reduce nitrogen and phosphatic fertiliser inputs and pesticides without reducing yields through plant breeding, soil management and precision application of inputs
  • Innovative science to underpin the technology of highly intensive protected crop (eg glasshouse) systems using renewable energy sources and with minimal wastage
  • Improving livestock efficiency within production systems that deliver public goods including landscape and habitat benefits, watershed management, reduced emissions and sequestration of carbon
what needs to be done
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

A new approach is needed - not a return to the agricultural R&D infrastructures of the past. We need to:

  • Elevate the status of applied R&D (including knowledge transfer) especially in research institutes - it should not be seen as inferior to basic science research
  • Provide career opportunities and rewards which arecomparable with those of other scientists in order to attract outstanding scientists
  • Provide studentships for PhD training for young scientists in applied agricultural research
what needs to be done14
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
  • Re-balance existing research budgets in universities and research institutes with an increasing proportion of the total directed towards applied research and development
  • Develop additional agricultural research funding streams from both public and private sources
  • See a leadership role taken by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board in addressing the ‘market failure’ in agricultural R&D, with the objective of establishing a fully functional and integrated R&D chain