News Archive 2009-2010

Sustainability and the land: Past, present, future
Two major new programmes of research

The end of 2009 saw work commence in earnest on the Centre's latest two research grants.
1. Processes of Technical Change in British Agriculture: Innovation in the Farming of South West England, 1935-1985
This three year project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Michael Winter, Matt Lobley and David Harvey from the Geography Department are joined in the research by new CRPR Senior Research Fellow Paul Brassley, a leading historian of twentieth century British agriculture. The UK during the period from the 1940s to the 1970s underwent a profound and far reaching transformation of its farming industry. Conventional knowledge attributes this 'second (or third) agricultural revolution' to market opportunity, state support, and the availability of new technical innovations. Yet this account ignores the underlying reality that much of the technology and innovation adopted in the post-war period was already available in pre-war years. Moreover, some of the cost-price pressures on agriculture that limited productivity in the 1930s were equally present in the '50s, '60s and '70s. We are undertaking a detailed case study of South West England, deploying an historical analysis of the annual Farm Management Survey (FMS), undertaken since the mid-1930s. We will combine evidence from the FMS field books with oral history involving famers, or their successors, who participated in the FMS in the 1950s and 1960s to produce a fine-grained and locally-informed survey of agricultural change in general and technical change in particular, through identifying how and when outputs changed on a sample of farms over the period 1935 - 1985.
2. Sustainable Rural Futures
We have started a five year programme of work funded by Devon County Council and the University's Strategic Development Fund to conduct research that will produce policy-relevant outputs to facilitate the development of successful technical and business innovation in agri-food businesses and a pattern of land use that meets the region's needs for food and energy security and the delivery of other ecosystem services. The first year of the programme is being conducted by Michael Winter, Rob Fish, Matt Lobley, Naiomh McMahon and Allan Butler. The work is overseen by a Steering Group chaired by Devon County Council Chief Executive, Phil Norrey. Other Steering Group members include the national park officers for Dartmoor and Exmoor. "Our long standing close relationship with Devon County Council is a central plank in our commitment to conduct research that is both rigorous and policy relevant. This programme enables us to develop in-depth work in the county over a long time period, focussing initially on issues of food security and agricultural change" explains Michael Winter.
December 2009
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Stapledon Trust Seminar on High Natural Value Farming Systems, 19-20 January 2010

This seminar will explore the role and future of High Natural Value Farming Systems in Western Europe, with particular emphasis on grasslands in such systems. The context for the seminar is the growing policy emphasis on food security and climate change adaptation.
December 2009
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Matt Lobley speaking at South West Observatory Devon Local Network Seminar

Matt Lobley will be speaking at this seminar on 8 December which is part of the South West Observatory's Land and Food Programme. Matt's talk is entitled 'Farming Futures: The agriculture sector in the South West to 2020 and beyond'.
More details
November 2009
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Opportunities and potential for small scale anaerobic digestion plants in the UK

Allan Butler will be giving a presentation at the Rural Enterprise Gateway Knowledge Network events on 8th December at Kemble in Gloucestershire, and on 10th December at North Wyke Research near Okehampton. Allan's presentation is entitled: Overview of AD calculators available to the industry.
November 2009
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UK National Ecosystem Assessment - Scenarios Working Group

CRPR’s close involvement in National Ecosystem Assessment has been extended. Rob Fish has been appointed to the Scenarios Working Group for the Assessment which will meet on 23rd November. Rob’s involvement in the Group builds on his scenario building work for Defra as part of a programme of research for embedding an Ecosystems Approach into policy delivery.
Click her for more information
November 2009
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Ecosystem Assessment and Services: A New Approach to Thinking about Land Use

Exeter's Centre for Rural Policy Research is fully engaged in the Ecosystem Approach to understanding the wide range of demands made by humans on the natural environment and our dependency on natural processes for food, energy, water and wellbeing. Michael Winter is a member of the national Expert Panel on Ecosystem Assessment which is co-chaired by Professor Bob Watson of University of East Anglia and Defra’s Chief Scientific Advisor, and Professor Steve Albon of the Macaulay Institute. The Panel is supported by United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Rob Fish, working with Michael Winter, Matt Lobley and Duncan Russel in the CRPR along with colleagues at the universities of East Anglia and Nottingham, has recently won a one year research project with Defra to examine ‘Participatory and deliberative techniques for embedding an ecosystems approach in decision-making’.
November 2009
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Socio-economic aspects of local and national organic farming markets

A report commissioned by Defra and published today by the CRPR takes a fresh look at the nature of organic production, consumption and marketing in England and Wales and reveals a highly committed set of consumers. The report also identifies a group of small scale producers who, locally embedded and linked to consumers via short supply chains, fulfil the expectations of many organic consumers and exemplify the idea of alternative food producers. However, it is the large scale producers, concerned with the production of bulk commodities and integrated into long supply chains, that inevitably account for the main rural employment and income benefits of the organic sector, if measured in aggregate terms.
Click here for the summary report or here for the main report.
October 2009
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PPRE Research & Policy Symposium, November 2009

Staff at CRPR are participating in a one day symposium and networking event on Farming Food and the Rural Economy this autumn. The event is showcasing latest findings from rural research undertaken by Duchy College, North Wyke Research and the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth as part of the Peninsula Partnership for the Rural Environment. More details can be obtained from Rob Fish, the event co-ordinator or by visiting the PPRE website.
September 2009
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Rob Fish to chair one-day symposium at the Royal Geographical Society, September 2009

As a co-organisor of an ESRC/NERC Transdisciplinary Seminar Series on the Ecosystems Approach Rob Fish assisted in chairing a major one-day event at the RGS in early September. Entitled Creating a new prosperity: Fresh approaches to ecosystem services and human well-being the event was attended by over 200 people including policy makers, scientists and research councils
More details
September 2009
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New report on farm incomes in Devon

A new report commissioned by Devon County Council shows that, after a long period of low farm incomes, 2007/08 saw widespread improvements in farm incomes in Devon. Buoyant prices contributed to increased incomes, as did an expansion of arable crops on former set aside land. However, livestock farms in the uplands and lowlands continued to face low incomes. Increasing input costs and weakening commodity prices since this data was collected suggests that the income position of many of Devon’s farms will have worsened. Click here for the full report.
February 2009
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PhD success

We are delighted that CRPR PhD student, Jodie West, has succcessfully completed her PhD on public attidudes to renewable energy. We offer our congratulations to Jodie and wish well in her new research fellow position at Plymouth University whwre she continues with her interest in the public and RE in a project on the Wave Hub.
January 2009
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Honorary Research Associate

Our KTP worker Mark Howard has completed his two years at Riverford, but has continued working there, a sure sign of the success of the initiative between Riverford and the Univeristy. Mark's relationship with the CRPR continues in an honorary capacity.
January 2009
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New PhD students

We are pleased to welcome two Southampton University PhD students to the CRPR community. Michael Winter is second-supervising both students. Liz Shepherd is looking at risk assessment and sustainability issues surrounding biofuel crops and Laura Clements is looking at Anaerobic Digestion and organic farming. Both are based in the Southampton Biology department with Professor Guy Poppy.
January 2009
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Matt Lobley recruited to PrioNet Committee

Matt Lobley has been recruited to the Scientific Advisory Committee of PrioNet Canada. PrioNet is a Network of Centres of Excellence funded by the Canadian Federal government to conduct research in basic and applied sciences of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (including human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and chronic wasting disease of cervids). Matt will provide guidance on PrioNet research proposals concerning social aspects of prion disease, including impact on farm families and rural economies.
More details
January 2009
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Back to News archive 2009