Lessons from intensifying agriculture


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Lessons from intensifying agriculture

Dr Barbara Smith, Associate Professor, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University


Date: 07 February 2020, 16:15

Location: Herbertson Room, School of Geography and the Environment, OUCE, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road Oxford, Oxon OX1 3QY  

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In agriculture, intensification of production is 15 years ahead of forestry. The literature differentiates between sustainable farming, and sustainable intensification. Sustainable farming aims at a system where natural, social & human capital are not depleted by farming; Sustainable Intensification (SI) is production focused, aiming to increase production without depleting this capital. Increasingly, in agriculture, there is a call to consider the entire food chain, incorporating social and environmental safeguards. It is argued that achieving food security needs to go beyond a narrow focus on crop yields; there are concerns about wider sustainability that includes human well-being comprised of good nutrition, and healthy consumption patterns, as well as equitable distribution of food. Thus, optimal food production should also change consumption culture and not just increase production.

Did intensification in agriculture bring the expected ‘more from less’? The origins of SI lie in discussions about increasing yields, in the face of resource scarcity and environmental challenges. Is there a definition of SI that clarifies the logic on which it rests and the context and conditions within which it should be implemented?

With a background as an agricultural ecologist, Dr Barbara Smith investigates the development of sustainable, equitable food systems. She is currently Associate Professor in Agricultural Ecology and Public Science in the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University. Previous work focussed on the conservation of farmland biodiversity, developing and evaluating incentive schemes. Her current areas of research include developing targets and metrics for biodiversity, management of ecosystem service provision with a focus on pollination and the impact of agricultural intensification on ecosystem services. In India she is co-Director of the Centre for Pollination Studies at Calcutta University where they employ participatory approaches to investigate sustainable management of small-holder farming systems and have developed novel techniques for collating and integrating traditional knowledge into the scientific evidence base.