4 October 2016 16:57

N8 universities have been successful in securing more than £1.5m of funding through six awards from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC).

SARIC, a public-private partnership, is a collaboration between three research councils (BBSRC, NERC, and ESRC*) and 12 private partners to address some of the challenges of sustainable intensification in agriculture.

Ten inter-disciplinary projects were funded as part of this latest round, with the N8 Universities of Lancaster, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle being awarded six projects between them.

Lancaster University has been awarded funding to support two of the research projects. These projects will look at increasing the resilience of cereal and oilseed rape production to weather damage, and developing a holistic decision-support system for organic slurry storage and treatment techniques for maximum nutrient use efficiencies, which will be available for farmers.

Professor John Quinton, N8 Agrifood lead at Lancaster University said: “It’s great to see Lancaster and N8 researchers contributing to the sustainability of our food system through a range of projects funded by SARIC and exciting that scientists from different disciplines are coming together to address some of agriculture’s major challenges.”

The N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme builds on the N8’s research strengths in science, engineering and the social sciences to address global challenges in food security, including sustainable food production, resilient food supply chains, improved nutrition and consumer behaviours.

Dr Claire Waterton, Reader in Environment and Culture at Lancaster University’s Sociology Department and who is leading on the project developing a slurry decision support system, said: “SARIC enabled us to discuss nutrient content and availability of livestock manures with a group of really interesting researchers across the UK, responding to industry calls to develop and improve decision tools for slurry handling and use.

“Our research involves discussions with upland beef farmers to find out whether the information currently available to them if of any use, or not. We need to find out much more about their own farm practices. We also need to think holistically about the value of slurry and how farm and non-farm infrastructures might help ensure that slurry is considered less as a waste product and more as a resource.”

The cereal and oilseed rape project is led by Alan Blackburn, Senior Lecturer in the Lancaster Environment Centre.