Farming First

Key takeaways from the Oxford Farming Conference 2020

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Source: Farming First

The 11th annual Oxford Farming Conference 2020 set its sights on managing global food systems in innovative and environmentally sustainable ways.

In line with the world’s sustainable development goals as outlined by the UN, the conference explored the current challenges the agricultural sector faces, with the need to ensure food security, the duty to protect natural ecosystems, and the necessity to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.

In line with the world’s sustainable development goals as outlined by the UN, the conference explored the current challenges the agricultural sector faces, with the need to ensure food security, the duty to protect natural ecosystems, and the necessity to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.

With the tone of the conference set, discussions covered:

  • How climate and food systems must be supported to help support our changing planet and feed its population
  • How to make production and consumption of meat and dairy more sustainable and whether recent reports that switching to a plant-based diet might be misleading (including new research from Oxford University into methane emissions)
  • The inequality of land ownership in the UK and what can be done to address the issue
  • Diversity and inclusion in UK farming and how other cultures approach food production

Key takeaways from the Oxford Farming Conference 2020

Keynote speakers included Defra and National Food Strategy’s Henry Dimbleby, who stressed the importance of distribution over production in building sustainable and long-lasting food systems which we would be ‘proud to leave our children’. While National Farmers Union Crops Board Chair, Tom Bradshaw, warned that the farming sector must pull together and present a ‘united front’ if farmers are to have any hope of maintaining some form of direct support post-Brexit.

Finally, the most anticipated address was Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Theresa Villiers, who sought to reassure farmers that high food standards will be protected as the UK seeks trade deals after Brexit: ‘Our strong British brand is built on high standards to which we hold ourselves’.

Key takeaways from the Oxford Farming Conference 2020

The conference participants discussed what farmers want for the future, with a heavy focus on sequestering carbon in soil, animal welfare, biodiversity and environmental pollution. Sustainable farming dedicated to high welfare for livestock and high-quality farming with human health and environmental protection at the core. The consumer, now more important than ever, must be clearly instructed and informed about the means of production.

Innovation hubs for farming practice were led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. These hubs showcased the latest exciting bioscience projects with relevance to UK agriculture such as understanding and determining interactions between genes, traits and the environment to secure future crop yields. Precision technology and big data were also presented as possible means for examining challenges to crop and animal health.



Key takeaways from the Oxford Farming Conference 2020

Better land management practice and soil health were discussed as being key to rebuilding thriving ecosystems, providing clean water, producing nutrient dense food, preventing flooding or super fires and especially soil carbon sequestration. This could also mean more people become inspired by farming and agriculture and want to get involved.

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