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Agricultural futures and their implications for the environment (CTE0206) - IS0209


The overall aim of the project is to provide information on possible agricultural futures in England and Wales in order to support decision making on environmental policy. Accordingly, the project focuses on the link between agriculture and environment over the next 50 years. This recognises the influence of limits imposed by the physical and natural circumstances of farming in England and Wales, but also of constraints and opportunities arising from a range of possible future economic, social, technological and political conditions, as well as social preferences which find expression in policy.

Possible future agricultural scenarios will be compiled and expressed in qualitative and quantitative terms, drawing on stakeholder participation. This will inform a modelling process whereby the nature of, and interrelationships between, agricultural performance and environment impacts under selected future scenarios will be assessed using a range of representative farm cases in England and Wales. Applying existing generic arable and livestock models, the case studies will recognise local and regional variations associated with soils, climate and dominant farming systems, including crop and livestock systems, in the latter case distinguishing between upland and lowland situations. Outputs from modelling will be aggregated at regional and national scales. These will be and analysed and presented in GIS spatially defined, mappable format.

The modelling process will draw out the differences between possible agricultural futures in terms of the characteristics of faming and environment. A measures framework, reflecting the main themes and indicators of sustainability, will be used for this purpose. The models will demonstrate the extent to which possible futures deliver against minimum or discretionary environmental standards, and will be used to consider the efficacy and impact of policy interventions to meet sustainability objectives. The analysis will also identify the key trade-offs between agricultural and environmental objectives, the costs and benefits of selected interventions, and the way that policies to achieve particular objectives may interact. The modelling work will also help to determine the potential role of research to secure agricultural sustainability under the possible futures.

The key aspects which distinguish the proposal are that it progresses the analysis of agricultural and environmental futures from a largely qualitative, narrative base to a much more quantitative one. It further develops quantitative indicator values to describe and distinguish these futures, engaging stakeholders in this process The proposal draws on the research team’s considerable existing knowledge and competence in farming and related environmental systems modelling, combining physical, natural and social sciences in a policy framework. The approach covers arable and livestock, and upland and lowland farming systems, with modelled outputs presented in a spatially defined format to draw out regional differences. The quantitative analysis, together with its analytical framework, will provide a very useful addition to DEFRA’s tool kit for integrated policy management as it addresses the challenge of sustainable agriculture, climate change and other environmental issues.


In pursuit of the study aim there are four main objectives as follows

1. To identify and characterise the possible futures for agriculture. Answers to the following questions will be sought:

(a) What are the key factors and issues which shape and characterise the range of possible future outcomes for agriculture?
(b) How do these factors and issues combine to define possible future scenarios for agriculture in England and Wales?
(c) What are the identities and likely values of key input parameters (such as prices, yields, quotas, environmental regulation or incentives), and output indicators (such land use, enterprise mix, farming practice, environmental qualities) which characterise agriculture under these scenarios?
(d) What are the likely interactions between agriculture and environment (and other related aspects of sustainability including rural livelihoods) for the future scenarios, and what are the main issues of concern?

2. To determine the possible impacts and consequences of these possible agricultural futures in terms of economic, social performance and environmental performance the farming sector, the countryside and the wider rural sector. Answers to the following questions will be sought:
(a)What is the degree of sustainability of farming systems under selected agricultural scenarios measured in terms of the qualitative and quantitative characteristics and indicators previously identified?
(b) What interactions and trade-offs amongst economic, social and environmental criteria are evident in the agricultural futures and constituent farming systems?
(c) What are the implications of alternative agriculture futures at national, regional, local and farm unit level?
(d) How do these possible agricultural futures, described in quantitative and qualitative terms, match with stakeholder views of sustainability?

3. To determine the implications of possible agricultural futures for environmental objectives and targets, the justification for environmental (and related agricultural sustainability) policy interventions. Answers to the following questions will be sought:
(a) How do the environmental performance and outcomes of the various agricultural scenarios compare with existing legal environmental targets and aspirational objectives?
(b)What types of environmental policy are implied by 3 (a) above in terms of environmental protection and enhancement?
(c) What is the likely impact of policy interventions on agriculture and environment and how do these possible policy interventions interact beneficially or otherwise?
(d)What policy mechanisms are implied by the scenarios, including preference for particular types of policy instrument?
(e) What is the likely performance of policy interventions in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and equity for each major scenario?

4, Determine a framework which identifies and prioritises broad areas of research which address key issues and concerns associated with possible futures, thereby helping key stakeholders, especially government, to prepare for and cope with possible futures in accordance with sustainability objectives. Answers will be sought to the following questions.
(a) What research is required to better inform the need for and design of policy interventions to meet sustainability objectives given possible futures?
(b) What type of research is needed to enable agriculture to flourish in these futures in pursuit of a sustainable agricultural sector and rural economy, especially regarding agri-environmental interventions?

Project Documents
• Final Report : Agricultural Futures and Implications for the Environment   (943k)
• Final Report - Annex : Agricultural Futures and Implications for the Environment   (3128k)
• Final Report - Annex : Agricultural Futures and Implications for the Environment   (714k)
• Final Report - Annex : Agricultural Futures and Implications for the Environment   (541k)
• Final Report - Annex : Agricultural Futures and Implications for the Environment   (246k)
• Final Report - Annex : Agricultural futures and their implications for the environment (CTE0206)   (2011k)
• Technical Report : Agricultural Futures and Implications for the Environment   (694k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2005

Cost: £159,307
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Cranfield
Climate and Weather              
Climate Change              
Environmental Protection              
Natural Resource Use              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production