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2015 Oxford Real Farming Conference

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14 January 2015
Agroecology and sustainable intensification

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18 December 2014
Hedgerow harvesting machinery trials

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17 December 2014
Organic Producers' Conference Proceedings online

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25 November 2014
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An assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of a large-scale conversion to organic farming in the UK

Full project title:

PhD programme: An assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of a large-scale conversion to organic farming in the UK

Project code:

LS PhD

Contract period:

1 August 2011 to 31 July 2017

Main funder:

The Progressive Farming Trust Ltd

Contact staff at ORC:

Mr. Laurence Graham Smith

Other staff involved:

Bruce Pearce, Nic Lampkin, Susanne Padel

Project aims

The proposed work will aim to assess the environmental and economic implications of a large scale conversion to organic farming within England and Wales.

The specific objectives of the thesis are as follows:

  1. To review current knowledge on the environmental impacts of organic farming systems in Northern Europe, with particular regard to greenhouse gas emissions and acidification.
  2. To review approaches for scaling up organic agriculture at a national level and for modelling the impacts of a large-scale conversion, as the basis for the development of an assessment methodology.
  3. Using the method(s) identified in 2, to explore the implication of a 100% conversion of agriculture (by land area) within England and Wales, in terms of primary energy use, Global Warming Potential (GWP), soil carbon sequestration and Acidification Potential (AP).
  4. To examine how different types of organic production (i.e. farming systems) compare against each of the above environmental indicators.
  5. To explore the economic impacts of a 100% conversion to organic agriculture within the UK.

The work proposed will be a policy-focussed series of papers exploring the theme of a large-scale conversion to organic agriculture within the UK and the sectorís relative environmental and economic performance to non-organic/conventional farming. This work will help to highlight benefits and/or dis-benefits provided by the organic approach in the context of climate change and the broader sustainability agenda.

Rather than focus on a limited set of products and/or farm practices, as previous studies have tended to, the study will carry out assessments at a farm system level, investigating the potential for interactions and trade-offs, between the farming systems identified.

This work will build on the outputs from Defra project OF0386: Methodology for assessing the environmental economic and social characteristics of (organic and non-organic) farming systems, and will contribute to ongoing work within Defra project AC0114: Data management and modelling - part of the Greenhouse Gas Platform.

ORC's role

The Programme is being co-supervised by Dr Bruce Pearce, Prof. Nic Lampkin and Dr. Susanne Padel at the Organic Research Centre, Elm farm andr Dr. Adrian Williams, Prof Guy Kirk and Mr. Eric Audsley (special subject adviser) at Cranfield University.

Project leader and partners