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Sustainable Intensification Platform (1) Integrated Farm Management - LM0201

Ministerial priorities of (i) growing the rural economy and (ii) improving the environment often come into conflict. The SIP aims to provide robust evidence to inform the farming industry’s drive for sustainable intensification by researching integrated and collaborative approaches that enable farmers to increase food production and farm profitability while improving their environmental performance.

The SIP aims to host and link future agricultural research funded by Defra and other organisations. The platform will consist of:
i. A physical network of agricultural study sites in England and Wales, and
ii. A community of collaborating agricultural, environmental and socio-economic researchers from over 30 organisations

‘Integrated Farm Management’ (IFM) describes a practical approach to improving the economic, environmental and social performance of farm businesses. Our aim is to develop an IFM approach by which farmers as a community can select and implement a combination of management practices to improve performance sustainably within the opportunities and constraints presented by their sectors and location. The project will be delivered by an unprecedented partnership of universities, research institutes, industry and environmental organisations, supported by an extensive network that spans the UK food supply chain. The network of research organisations establishes a research platform that can be used for innovative research across the range of farming environments in England and Wales. Our approach envisages this platform delivering data to projects and organisations beyond those in this proposal.

Building on established methodologies such as the Farm Business Survey, we will develop comprehensive new approaches to assessing farm performance. We will develop measures of sustainable intensification that integrate production, economic, environmental and social performance indicators that can be applied effectively at farm and catchment scales. Wide ranging data will be collected from a sample of commercial farms within study areas in England and Wales, and analysed to assess current performance and establish a baseline for SI, using the indicators developed.

A series of interventions will be defined that could be implemented on farm to enable progress in SI. This will be done by identifying current practices associated with higher levels of performance across multiple indicators, and ‘horizon scanning’ with stakeholders to consider what might be needed in future, We will evaluate these interventions in detail on multiple study farms, some of which are highly instrumented, thereby enabling us to ‘ground truth’ our indicators. Study areas will cover a range of locations, environments and farming types within the arable, livestock or horticultural sectors. To support on-farm implementation of effective interventions for improved practice, we will work with a wide range of stakeholders to develop a decision support and guidance framework. Existing mechanisms will be catalogued and their effectiveness characterised through surveys and farmer or advisor interviews. Sector-specific workshops will construct a list of desired outcomes that can then be related to improved practices for IFM. The framework will enable farmers or advisors to select practices relevant to the required outcomes, and direct them to tools or advice to support decision-making and implementation.

The research platform will be supported by KE activities to create the community of practice necessary for sustainable intensification. Project outputs will be disseminated through: trained ‘ambassadors’ embedded in the farming community, inclusive workshops, local meetings and on-farm events, plus a dedicated website, newsletter and social media, backed up by the wider demonstration and communication resources of our partners.
Objective 1.1: Develop improved indicators and standardised methodologies for land managers and their advisers to measure the economic, environmental and social performance of farms.

Objective 1.2: Identify and develop farm management interventions for sustainably intensive agriculture.

Objective 1.3: Investigate ways of better communicating complex messages to farmers and propose approaches for more innovative decision support.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : SIP1 scoping study Final   (1369k)
• FRP - Final Report : SIP1 WP1 3A Decision support IFM Final   (1349k)
• FRP - Final Report : WP1.1A Final Report Omnicom   (1026k)
• FRP - Final Report : WP1.1B Final Report Omnicom   (960k)
• SCO - Scoping Study : Meta analysis scoping Final Report   (750k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2014

To: 2017

Cost: £2,086,089
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Farm Management