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Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop - HH3606NSF

The desire for agricultural sustainability is well recognised in the UK’s agricultural industry and is now accepted by most farmers, although the means for delivering such a goal are still largely unclear. This is, in-part, due to the lack of sound data describing just how far away that goal is. Whilst we have fairly reliable data on the farm economics of crop production, its environmental impact (considering the production cycle overall) is less well defined. It is only now with the development of risk assessment techniques and sophisticated models mapping environmental fate, that we have the skills to address this problem. Bringing economic appraisal together with environmental impact assessment will allow more informed judgements to be made on any possible socio-economic impacts and so lead to a better assessment of the sustainability of UK food production. Within the horticultural sector the message regarding sustainability is not as firmly in place as other sectors and an effort needs to be made to promote the concept. The UK strawberry crop is currently considered to be worth around £79m (2001), with around £45m of additional strawberries being imported (during 2000/2001) and just £0.56m being exported. UK strawberries are prized by consumers for their quality and taste. However, the sustainability and environmental impact of all UK food production is of serious concern to both regulators and consumers, so in order to protect the UK market long-term, sound information on the sustainability of UK strawberry production is needed.This project seeks to apply current state-of-the-art environmental impact and economic [& socio-economic] assessment techniques to a range of strawberry production scenarios to develop a better understanding of the sustainability of the UK crop. This will:· Support DEFRA policy on the promotion of more sustainable crop production, especially that which relies on the minimisation and optimisation of crop production inputs (such as pesticides) in order to minimise environmental impact and protect natural resources.· Utilises previously funded DEFRA research to provide sound data for future planning and policy issues.· Acts as a model for further crops.· The UK strawberry industry will be provided with detailed information on the sustainability of its crops and its strengths & weaknesses.· Help formulate best practice guidelines.The UK strawberry sector (HDC, leading growers and distributors) will be involved in this project and provide support in-kind. Currently Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), a research, information and education provider for the food and grocery industry, have requested support for a complementary project which will seek to establish financial benchmarking for growers, allowing them to confidently compare their production costs. There is no overlap across the two projects, however, the results of the IGD work could help support the financial assessment required in this project.

There are several recognised methods of strawberry production, including:· Soil grown, with and without protection;· Container grown (bags, trays, pots etc.) grown usually with protectionStrawberries are grown throughout the UK with the highest concentration, ~28%, in the South East; ~22% in the East; 20% in the Midlands and the West account for around a further 20%1. Organic strawberry production only accounts for around 0.02% of the UK crop. Minimising pesticides remains a priority for the industry. Approximately 55,600 spray hectares of pesticides are applied which amounts to around 11 spray rounds per crop2. Approximately, 170 tonnes of nitrogen are applied annually to the UK crop3, low compared to most agricultural crops. Energy and water requirements, and waste production (packaging, waste crop etc.) could all be high, however, as yet detailed information is not widely available. Previously, little work has been done to compare management practices with respect to understanding their potential for environmental impact and progress towards sustainability. Environmental impact assessments (EIA) are often used to aid decision-making on complex planning issues and the use of such techniques within agriculture is about to come of age. Sophisticated risk assessment methods are now available for planning pesticide strategies4 and mathematical models have been developed which simulate the nitrogen dynamics within soil systems to generate field specific fertiliser recommendations and to predict environmental losses5. In addition, energy budgeting techniques have been published in the scientific press6. However, with the exception of work done on the sustainability of sugar beet production7, 8, few studies to date have attempted to draw together these techniques to quantify the environmental impact of a specific crop. This project seeks to compare a range of strawberry production methods in a variety of geographical locations (including Europe albeit to less depth) using state-of-the art EIA and socio-economic techniques to provide a better understanding of the sustainability of the UK strawberry crop. This will provide DEFRA with data for policy development and provide the industry with best practice guidelines for progression towards sustainability.
1. To assess the environmental impact of inputs (pesticides, nitrates) and outputs (waste and emissions) and allow various production methods to be compared.
2. Generation of materials-flow diagrams for pesticides, nitrates, energy, water, crop, waste and other emissions.
3. To apply established economic assessment techniques to compare and contrast costs associated with a range of production methods.
4. Make informed judgements on the positive & negative effects the strawberry market has on the local rural environment and the quality of rural life.
5. To use the above generated information to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the UK strawberry crop with respect to its sustainability.
Project Documents
• Final Report : HH3606NSF Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop_Final Report   (368k)
• Final Report - Annex : HH3606NSF Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop_ References   (37k)
• Final Report - Annex : HH3606NSF Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop_Appendix   (92k)
• Final Report - Annex : HH3606NSF Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop_Appendix Tables   (571k)
• Final Report - Annex : HH3606NSF Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop_Report Figures   (4424k)
• Final Report - Annex : HH3606NSF Sustainability of the UK strawberry crop_Tables   (45k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2005

Cost: £153,021
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Hertfordshire
Sustainable Production              
Fields of Study