Agriculture

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By Professor Donal O’Sullivan, Professor of Crop Science in the School of Agriculture, University of Reading

Unfavourable weather patterns and their impact on crop production have again been a major talking point in farming circles. Bizarrely, whilst the total amount of rainfall in 2017 to date is very close to the historic average, it has been distributed in a very unhelpful way (as data from the University’s Meteorology Department weather station helpfully plotted out in an up-to-the-minute annual graph shows).

Weather data from the University of Reading shows the drought in April and summer deluge

First and foremost, there was almost no meaningful rainfall for a six-week period spanning the calendar month of April, when crops were going through their most rapid phase of growth. But to compound matters, there was an unusual deluge in the second half of July, when dry conditions would have been more conducive to straightforward ripening and harvest.

What will the impact of this latest extreme weather episode be? The research team I am leading in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development may have some answers. We designed a large field experiment designed both to quantify yield losses due to drought and to detect varieties with drought-beating characteristics.

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By Professor Mike Goodman, Professor of Environment and Development/Human Geography, University of Reading.

Professor Goodman appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today on Monday (8 May), to discuss the growth of Alternative Food Networks. Here he explains more about how they are evolving and why they face a cloudy future.

Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) in the UK—what we might think of as a loose confederation of actors working for a more ecologically, socially and economically friendly food system—are coming of age.

No longer are shoppers only confronted by wilted, dirty organic lettuce picked by ‘back to the landers’ wanting to live alternative lifestyles off the grid. AFNs are now not just at the forefront of quality food revolution for the ‘worried well’ and that of the technological revolution about how we grow and eat food, but, more problematically, are also on the frontlines of feeding the so-called ‘JAMs’ (just-about-making it) and economically marginal populations who are not getting enough to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

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Edith Mary Gayton Memorial Lecture: Food and farming: managing agricultural production systems in turbulent times

The annual Edith Mary Gayton Memorial Lecture will be held on Tuesday 21 February 2017. Edith Mary Gayton was an agricultural graduate of the University of Reading in the 1930s. Little is known of her later career and life but, in his will, her husband made a bequest to Reading in her memory stipulating that the funds should be used in the field of agriculture and management. The annual Memorial Lecture is one use of these funds.

Our lecture this year will be delivered by Judith Batchelar. Judith is the director of Sainsbury’s Brand for 13 years. Judith is responsible for all aspects of Sainsbury’s product offer, from Policy formation on aspects such as Animal Welfare, Ethical and Sustainable Sourcing, through to Product Technology, Product Development, Product Safety, and Packaging.  Essentially, she drives the Quality and Innovation agendas whilst protecting and enhancing the reputation of Sainsbury’s Brand. She has worked in the food and drink industry for 35 years.  Judith is a member of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST), and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufactures, and for the last 3 years has Co-Chaired the Government’s AgriFoodTech Council working on the implementation of the UK’s first AgriFood sector strategy.

The lecture will be held in the Madejski Lecture Theatre, Agriculture Building at the University of Reading. Refreshments will be available from 18:15 hrs and the lecture will commence at 19:00.

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