ARCHIVE: Research projects
Overview of work programme
Research and analysis to be undertaken by the internal Defra Observatory Team continues to be developed, along with an external research programme of work.
Key aspects of the overall research programme of work are:
- monitoring and improving understanding of current and future changes in farming patterns and practices as a result of CAP Reform and other key drivers
- improving understanding of links between changes observed at farm level and observed environmental changes, both beneficial and detrimental
- assessing future environmental changes based on analysis and understanding of causal links
The external research projects carried out during the period July 2005 to March 2008 (Phase I) provided an updated picture of farm level impacts and the environmental consequences. Over the medium and longer term, they will improve our understanding of the changing impact of agriculture on the environment.
The aim of the Phase I work programme was to build up a full picture of the starting position and to develop mechanisms to access future changes, in particular to:
- establish baseline data against which to measure future changes
- develop monitoring and assessment tools to track changes
- identify and analyse emerging trends and assess environmental implications, particularly resulting from 2003 CAP Reform
- identify gaps in evidence and data requirements that could be filled in subsequent years
Details of the initial core studies carried out by the Central Science Laboratory and the University of Gloucestershire (Countryside and Community Research Unit) and other published reports from Phase 1 can be found on the published research page. The research work continues to build on and consolidate the data and research findings gathered. Project reports will be published on a regular basis over the course of the programme. Details of the current research studies being taken forward through the internal Observatory team and externally contractors can be found on the current research page.
The first Annual Review was published in January 2007. The review provides an overview of the evidence available in 2005/06 on the environmental outcomes of the 2003 CAP Reforms and other key drivers of agricultural change in England. The review presents emerging findings across the arable, lowland and upland livestock sectors and provides a summary of data gathered on the Single Payment Scheme in 2005, the first year of implementation.
An Interim Report detailing Observatory research during 2007 was published on 11th December 2007.
Monitoring of changes in and environmental value of former set-aside
The prospect of large areas of uncropped land returning to cultivation as a result of the combination of the zero rate and very high cereal prices, led to concern that the environmental benefits described in previous Observatory reports would be lost. Following discussion with the Environment Agency and Natural England, and consultation with a range of other organisations, the then Secretary of State for Defra announced on 26th September 2007 that the Observatory would be leading a programme of monitoring to establish the environmental impact of the changes. The aim of the programme is to ensure that Ministers have an improved evidence base to make informed decisions on future policy responses to mitigate the impact on achieving Defra’s environmental benefits associated with the reduction of uncropped land.
The initial work has focused on the setting up of a framework that will monitor the impacts of a zero set aside rate for the 2008 harvest in order to deliver information on the amount of land taken out of production in 2007-2008, the characteristics of that land, and the possible environmental implications and so provide evidence to inform future policy decisions.
Details of the commissioned and published research work relating to former set-aside is available. Further background information on the programme of monitoring and details of the Stakeholders' Technical Group and Sir Don Curry's Higher Level Group can be found here.
Phase 2 and future work
Specific areas of research and potential projects to take the programme of work forward have been identified. The aim is to provide a more comprehensive monitoring programme for the environmental impacts of farm practice changes, highlighting any areas of particular concern or success. Consideration will also be given to further assessment of the impacts of other key agriculture-related policy and market developments on the environment. Other areas could also potentially focus on investment in appropriate data systems that could integrate environmental monitoring and farm level databases at appropriate spatial scales and time periods.
Some of the proposed research undertaken in the early part of 2008/09 represented a continuation of the work initiated during the final year of Phase 1. A plan of work highlighting potential research in 2009/10 and beyond has been drawn up to meet the aims and objectives of the programme, whilst building on the previous research and data gathered. Possible research areas include:
- further monitoring of impacts of changes to set-aside/uncropped land requirements
- measures of agricultural intensification and environmental implications
- CAP health check analyses
- longer term impacts of higher commodity prices
- further analysis of farmer attitudes and behaviours
- changes in farming behaviours and patterns in the uplands
- review of recent trends in pesticide and fertilizer use and environmental implications
- developing local estimates of hedgerow length
- environmental monitoring baseline project
- development of 'indicator parishes'
- continued work on 1km square data
- continued monitoring of livestock populations and land use
- continued monitoring of Single Payment Scheme uptake
Further information is available on our Help page about downloading or reading Adobe Acrobat documents.
Page last modified: 7 July, 2010
Page published: 18 November, 2005