Sustainable Agriculture

Grand Challenge

Sustainable Agriculture is one of the Faculty of Biological Sciences grand challenges

Sustainable Agriculture

The challenge

The global population is projected to reach 10 billion by the year 2050, but there is strong evidence that agricultural yields are not keeping pace.

In many parts of the world, agricultural practices either do not make optimal use of the available land or involve a form of farming that is destructive to natural systems.

In order to feed the world’s growing population, we need to intensify production through greater production per unit area of land, and increase the sustainability of that production through reducing impacts on natural systems and ensuring that methods can be used in the long-term.

815 million

people suffer from hunger challenges worldwide


rise in food demand over the next 15 years


of greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture

Addressing the challenge

School of Biology researchers in the Faculty of Biological Sciences across all our research groups are studying this problem of sustainable intensification from different angles.

The Centre for Plant Sciences is working on biotechnological approaches to enhancing yield so that the same plants can produce more food or less waste.

The Heredity, Disease and Development Group is pioneering new approaches to livestock nutrition, such as reductions in antibiotic use and micronutrient enrichment to increase the efficiency of animal farming.

The Ecology and Evolution Research Group is exploring how the ecosystem services associated with agricultural landscapes (pollination, pest control, water management) can be preserved in the face of intensification and how those services can be used to enhance yields.

These approaches are combined in largescale projects such as AFRICAP, an £8m project designed to enhance the sustainability of smallholder farming in Africa while still facilitating economic development.

Delivered impact

Research in sustainable agriculture led by academics in the School of Biology has been used to inform policy debates by the UK Government, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations.

More on Our future food - thought leadership for food systems

Professor Bill Kunin has estimated changes in local and regional pollinator species and has used this information to support policy makers and farmers.

More on Insect pollinators