What is land for? Feedback at the Oxford Real Farming Conference

2nd Jan 19 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

Land is a finite and uniquely valuable resource under intense pressure from competing priorities. How do we strike a balance?

At this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference on 3 and 4 January, Feedback is excited to host a session opening up some of the questions about land we’ve been asking ourselves recently.

Land has to answer a multitude of needs: space for people to live and for them to explore and enjoy, space and habitats for wildlife and natural ecosystems, a resource for food production and to generate economic prosperity. Land is also a very important piece in the puzzle of how we meet our immense climate challenge, as well-managed soils and vegetation such as forestry are vital to sequester carbon and reduce the risk of climate change.

70% of UK land is given over to agriculture. What we choose to grow, and how, are important questions, both for the long-term health of our soils and ecosystems, and for the health and wellbeing of the population. To help explore this question, Feedback uses a measure of agricultural productivity which takes into account nutritional benefit and environmental benefit – so an agro-ecological farming system which keeps soil carbon levels high, provides habitats for wild species and doesn’t pollute the environment, while providing highly nutritious food, would score well.

Meanwhile, intensive monocultures of crops like sugar beet, which provide very low nutritional benefits (or indeed negative health impacts), with accompanying negative impacts on the natural environment, for example from nitrogen fertiliser run off into local water systems, would score badly.

This is one way of looking at the question of how we use our land – but there are many others. To explore some of them, we are convening a panel including an organic sheep farmer, a bio-economy expert, a woodlands expert and a climate change expert to discuss our question: What is land for?

Here are the details:

What is land for? – Oxford Real Farming Conference, Friday 4 January at 1.30pm

Chair: Jessica Sinclair Taylor (Feedback)

Speakers: Krysia Woroniecka (Feedback), Liz Bowles (Soil Association), Sarah Hickingbottom (BioVale), Darren Moorcroft (The Woodland Trust), Indra Thillainathan (The Committee on Climate Change).

More info.

(For a startling visual insight into how the UK’s land is used, watch this short video ‘The UK in 100 Seconds’ by Dan Raven-Ellison).

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