Science Matters For Farming

WALES, UK - Scientific advancement and putting that into practice has made Welsh agriculture what it is today, said Elin Jones, Minister for Rural Affairs, during her keynote speech at NFU Cymru’s Annual Autumn Conference last week, (Thursday, 4 November 2010) on the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells.
calendar icon 8 November 2010
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Speaking at her fourth NFU Cymru Annual Autumn Conference the Minister stated that farming, food production and sustainable land management can all benefit from a close interaction with scientific research and development. “I want to see increased food production in Wales with less of an impact on the environment – we’re not there yet but science can help us crack that,” said the Minister.

Following on from the Minister, Professor David Paton, Director of Science at the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) spoke of how technological advances are creating huge opportunities and spoke of the IAH’s work on exotic animal diseases, one of which is only too familiar to Europe’s farmers, Bluetongue.

Professor David Paton said: “Bluetongue can cause significant production losses in both the sheep and cattle industries and strategic investment in appropriate science can support the tactical policy decisions. Even though the number of cases across Europe has decreased significantly farmers still have responsibilities in terms of imports. Farmers need to think very carefully about the actual need to import and if they do decide to import then they must become more cautious about where they bring in animals from.”

The afternoon was chaired by Dai Davies, Chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru the conference sponsors. The session was opened by Dr Prysor Williams, from Bangor University who looked at the role of academic research into Welsh agriculture. He spoke of the importance of the relationship between science and agriculture and stressed that if agriculture is to be sustainable science has a role to play.

Closing the conference Professor Gareth Wyn Jones, Chairman of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Land Use and Climate Change Group discussed how agriculture can potentially play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions whilst maintaining its food production potential.

On summing up the Conference, NFU Cymru President Ed Bailey, said: “With climate change and a burgeoning population there is now more than ever a drive towards greater efficiency and a more productive agriculture, but for this to happen it is vital that research and development in agricultural science is regarded as a priority.

“I hope that the politicians, policy makers and scientists present at the Conference, leave with the message that research priorities for farming are about developing better breeds and varieties and improving genetics. The key elements in the commercial context are disease and pest resistance; efficient use of nutrients, feed and water; using technology and machinery to increase efficiency and to reduce waste from our production systems. For all this to work it is vital that the science is industry focussed and that there is an effective knowledge exchange between all interested parties. It requires a common language, mutual respect and meaningful dialogue between farmers, politicians and scientists.”

Ed Bailey ended: “The conference certainly highlighted the array of scientific matters and issues associated with farming and the importance of science to farming - science matters for Welsh farming.”

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