We see many (increasing) articles based around food security and the need for increased U.K. agricultural outputs as well as the need to extend production to mitigate shortages and increased prices at checkout. Much of this need to intensify is blamed on the effect environmental schemes have had and how they remove land from food production, the truth behind this might just be the opposite.
Whenever the world of food and farming is challenged it tends to react by wanting to increase outputs (normally at the expense of nature and habitat). A recent Iowa state university study found that even if you double the market price of wheat, the resulting increase of yield is a mere 3.5% - all at the expense of nature, soil and microbes. Non-organic farmers use optimum inputs anyway and spreading more fertiliser and agrochemicals itself does not guarantee higher yields - although it does guarantee higher profits to the fertilizer producers.
If we want to move towards a more resilient UK food system, then we need to move away from not only grain imports from more volatile areas of the world but also inputs (80% of artificial nitrogen is imported and is made from natural gas). All phosphate is imported and much of the potash is too.
What is also critical to recognise is that coming out of the other side of this we will still need to protect pollinators, soils and mitigate against significant and volatile weather effects. Intensifying agriculture at this point will do nothing to facilitate this, in fact it will simply worsen the already perilous state of UK soils, biodiversity and climate. This will undoubtedly create an even greater threat to food security in the UK in the longer term - as our overall agricultural capacity will be diminished.
On the 23rd of March it was reported that polar temperatures were soaring to 40 degrees above normal. With everything going on in the world right now, the dual polar climate disasters of 2022 should be the top story. Degrading our planet further to support a fundamentally flawed food system is not a sane or logical response to the fundamental challenges we face.
This is the real crux of the matter; soil health and regenerative agriculture can reverse the effects of decades of intensification but only if we support these systems. So, with all that is happening across the globe but more importantly in Eastern Europe we focus again on our need to produce more food from the same amount (or perhaps less) land. Oh, how conflict can highlight our inadequacies to feed a nation and our dependence on imported food.
Let us not destroy soil health nor our nature purely based on a knee jerk reaction to a food security problem we have ignored for decades… yes decades. If the only answer we offer is the intensification of agriculture and food production, then we have already lost this battle.
Let us tackle food waste, eat better but smarter, support our soil and stand up for our nature… we are her voice - let us not be clouded by a false judgement or panic…