3Keel was commissioned by NCUB’s Food Economy Task Force to research and develop recommendations on how business and universities can promote future sustainable land use. The research demonstrated the potential benefits from landscape management approaches. As part of the work 3Keel interviewed a range of stakeholders including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, NFU, and the Met Office.
Agriculture uses 70% of the country’s surface area and directly employs more than 400,000 people. An industry that operates on this scale inevitably has intended as well as unintended effects on the environment. In the near future, the UK’s agri-food sector will need to respond to increasing global demands for food without impacting upon pressured ecosystems – all within the context of rising volatility from climate change.
This report sets out a new approach to these issues. It suggests that rather than the individual farm or land holding, the landscape as a whole is the correct scale on which to tackle the problems of sustainable land use.
This way of thinking about land use allows systems to be envisaged that would involve a full range of stakeholders in key decisions about the land, including farmers and growers, other businesses, conservation groups, the general public, and universities and research organisations. These would have a number of vital roles: creators of new knowledge, producers of skilled landscape facilitators, and experts in the collection and presentation of landscape information.
Examples of functions that can benefit from landscape level action include land management for flood risk, for enhancing populations of pollinators, for reducing numbers of pests, and for cultural heritage. Currently the market fails because individual farm performances are affected by these functions and by the behaviours of nearby land managers, but few mechanisms exist to launch coordinated responses.
With rising demands to produce more food from the land, and the growing crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, it is more important than ever to manage landscapes sustainably.