Sunday, November 06, 2011

The last one left standing

Last week East Malling Research kindly invited me to give the annual Amos Memorial Lecture at the research station. My theme was 'Food: Safe, Sustainable, Sufficient?' They videoed the lecture so I will post a link if it becomes available, not that I can see it going viral.

I was able to have a short tour of the station which is effectively the last horticultural research station we have in England. As the Applied Crops Research Centre, what was Warwick HRI is doing its best, but it is a shadow of its former self. There are a few post-1992 universities who do some work, but they lack economies of scale and the concentration of different kinds of expertise which allows people to bring together various forms of knowledge to solve problems.

East Malling is fortunate in the sense that its land is owned by a trust which gives it security of tenure and provides it with some income. Its centenary is approaching and an appeal for a new laboratory is to be launched.

Applied research involves identifying the problems faced by growers and farmers and working with them to provide long-term, sustainable solutions. It enables productivity to be improved but in a sustainable way. At East Malling, they are doing important work on water conservation which is going to be one of the biggest challenges for world farming in the decades ahead.

Applied research is a practical way of tackling problems of food security. Diversion of some of the money spent on the CAP for this purpose would yield substantial dividends.

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