Resource use and sustainabilty

The increased level of concern in the public domain about energy use and climate change has resulted in the emergence of interest in the potential for farms to both provide energy through biomass production (biofuels, biogas etc) and as a route for carbon sequestration. Much of this interest has taken on the aura of a panacea as farmers have rushed to plant “energy crops” and extravagant claims have been made about the potential of carbon sequestration on farmland. There is a danger therefore that facts and rational decision-making will be casualties in a headlong pursuit of the latest “fashion”, along with truly sustainable conservation and landscape management and all notions of balanced agricultural production systems. Nonetheless, it is clear that there is much that can be done to improve the resource use efficiency of farming systems. It is also clear that overall land use could, in many cases, take on the functions of energy generation and carbon sequestration in addition to the existing ones of food production, conservation, biodiversity, leisure and landscape management.

The resource use, emissions and sustainability programme seeks to assess the costs, benefits and interactions of these multi-functions in order to; a) understand their impacts, b) optimise their overall benefit, c) assess the economic impact and d) help farmers, landowners and policy make better decisions.

Latest News/Events

Currently none.

ORC staff involved

Susanne PadelLaurence SmithCatherine GerrardDr Bruce PearceNic Lampkin, Lawrence Woodward

Current projects

Project title (acronym)FunderDescription
PhD programme: An assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of a large-scale conversion to organic farming in the UKThe Progressive Farming Trust LtdThe work proposed will be a policy-focussed series of papers exploring the theme of a large-scale conversion to organic agriculture within the UK and the sector’s relative environmental and economic performance to non-organic/conventional farming.
Further Development of Methodologies for Sustainability Assessment and Monitoring in Organic/Ecological AgricultureEkhaga Foundation, SwedenWorking with the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) we are pooling our expertise to further develop methods for sustainability assessment and monitoring for organic farms.

Completed projects

Project title (acronym)FunderDescription
Greenhouse Gas Platform: Data Synthesis, Modelling and Management projectDefra and devolved administration governmentsThe Greenhouse Gas Research Platform is a Defra and devolved administration funded research programme that seeks to improve the accuracy and resolution of our greenhouse gas reporting system for UK agriculture
Development of methodology for assessing the environmental, economic and social characteristics of (organic and non-organic) farming systems (FSAM)DEFRAA range of UK farming systems will be described. A methodology will be developed, to describe their economic, environmental and social characteristics, from a life-cycle approach to capture inputs, products, outputs and impacts of the systems.
Public Goods Tool (PG tool)DEFRA through Natural EnglandThe OCIS public goods project produced a tool which is designed to provide a simple, measurable and accessible way to show the ‘Public Goods’ that accrue through organic farming systems and the addition of an OELS agreement.

See all completed projects here.

Key publications

Smith, L.G., Little, T. (2013) Environmental Footprinting for Farm Businesses. Report for Welsh Government, produced as part of Better Organic Business Links project.

Gerrard, Catherine L; Smith, Laurence; Pearce, Bruce; Padel, Susanne; Hitchings, Roger and Measures, Mark (2012) Public goods and farming. In: Farming for food and water security, 10. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, no. 8380. Springer, Dodrecht Heidelberg New York London, pp. 1-22.

Gerrard, CL; Moakes, Simon and Padel, Susanne (2012) The use of Farm Business Survey data to compare the environmental performance of organic and conventional farms. International Journal of Agricultural Management, 2 (1), pp. 5-16.

Smith, L. (2009). Anaerobic digestion – it’s a gas. Organic Farming, Spring 2009.

Smith, L. (2009). On farm nutrient management. Transition Farming event, 10th June 2009. Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

Smith, L. (2009). No fertiliser? Where is the Nitrogen going to come from? Transition Farming Event, 10th November, 2010. Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

Partner Organisations


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