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Assessment of reduction in environmental burdens through targeted measures compared with whole farm approaches in cropping and livestock systems - IF0131

Sustainable development is key concept that has emerged in society over the past half-century with concerns about how to meet the needs of the current population without endangering the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Environmental Footprint concept provides us with a stark example of this concern, where it has been calculated that if everyone lived as we do in the UK we would need three planets, clearly something that is unsustainable. The Environmental Footprint of agriculture is complex. Agricultural activities consume and utilise materials and energy like any other production processes, but this production is carried out in the environment itself causing point source and diffuse pollution and impacting on habitats and biodiversity. The environmental effects can be direct and indirect and can be either positive or negative.

The aim of the proposed project is to assess how targeted measures compare with whole farm approaches in reducing environmental burdens and to devise and develop an innovative environmental management system that would be effective at achieving those desired environmental outcomes. The following overview describes how we propose to undertake this work:

A comprehensive review and critique of the whole farm and targeted systems currently available will be undertaken to identify the main scientific evidence base on which the comparison work will be based. The causal mechanisms by which different approaches can influence environmental outcomes will be identified taking both a 'top-down' (activities > effects > impacts) and 'bottom-up' (outcomes > causes > activities) approach to develop a database of linkages between activities, effects and outcomes. Using this knowledge the various systems will be reviewed and their likely effectiveness at influencing environmental outcomes will be assessed using a scoring and ranking approach to be developed specifically for this purpose. This will, thus, allow the relative/likely effectiveness of targeted versus whole farm approaches to be evaluated. Whole farm systems will be compared to suites of targeted measures for a range of theoretical farms. This will provide a range of situations where different suites of targeted measures may be applicable and thus can be more realistically compared to whole farm systems. The information gained and the lessons learnt from this approach will enable the development of an innovative environmental management system that encapsulates the attributes that are most likely to be effective in bringing about positive environmental outcomes. It is envisaged that whatever system is developed, it will not duplicate what is already in existence and will integrate with existing systems.

The project should provide a valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of whole farm approaches compared to targeted measures. This will help inform Defra policy and public debate about sustainable farming. The innovative environmental management system which will be proposed as part of this project will provide Defra with a suitably defined framework for integrated farming and consequently more sustainable farming in the UK. An online prototype of this framework will be made available to farmers as part of the project, potentially bringing immediate benefits for those farmers who access the tool. It would aim to provide the industry with timely and relevant guidance / tools which are needed to help the industry develop and evolve in a more sustainable direction. The combination of provision of valuable information to Defra and support to the farming industry will also help meet specific environmental objectives, such as those laid out in cross compliance and the water and waste framework directives.
1. Complete a comprehensive and critical state-of-the-art review of whole farm and targeted approaches to environmental management. [Target end date: End of month 6 of project].
2. Complete an analysis of the causal processes and mechanisms by which different approaches influence environmental outcomes. [Target end date: End of month 10 of project].
3. Complete a critique of existing management systems to identify their strengths and weaknesses. [Target end date: End of month 16 of project].
4. Complete an assessment of the relative performance of whole farm versus targeted approaches for achieving environmental outcomes. [Target end date: End of month 16 of project].
5. Develop proposals for an environmental management system and create a prototype system. [Target end date: End of month 23 of project].
Project Documents
• Final Report : Assessment of Reduction in Environmental Burdens through Targeted Measures compared with Whole Farm Approaches in Cropping and Livestock Systems   (2173k)
• Final Report - Annex : Appendices A and B   (281k)
• Final Report - Annex : Appendix C   (1970k)
• Final Report - Annex : Appendix D   (1049k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2009

Cost: £132,807
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Hertfordshire
Decision Support Tools              
Integrated Farming Systems              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Sustainable Farming Systems