SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Policy and Practice for Management of Nutrients

The Centre for Development, Environment and Policy, in partnership with Lancaster University and leading institutes in China, has been awarded funding to research sustainable nutrient management and water resources protection in UK and Chinese agro-ecosystems.  The project is awarded under the UK-China Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) with funding from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Nutrient management in agro-ecosystems faces potential scarcity of new resources (for example, for phosphorus, P) and growing calls to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with nutrient losses from agricultural land (for nitrogen, N, and P). Such losses are a major constituent of diffuse water pollution from agriculture (DWPA), and can pose significant threats to natural ecosystems and to human health via public water supply. These challenges are set within the broader context of meeting a growing global demand for food, of responding to the challenges of climate change, and of maintaining economically viable farm businesses.

Addressing these nutrient management and water resource protection challenges requires both scientific knowledge and the means to effect change. For the former, understanding is needed of the stocks and the fluxes of nutrients at spatial scales that range from farm to globe. This understanding is important because it provides the basis for identifying imbalances in nutrient management within agro-ecosystems that represent opportunities for more sustainable management, and for evaluating alternative management approaches. In turn, achieving change will require new interventions through practice and policy, supported by revised delivery arrangements that enable these interventions to be implemented and supported within local jurisdictions.

With the objective of achieving more sustainable management of N and P in agro-ecosystems, this project will develop and exchange innovation in the fields of knowledge, practice, policy and governance, with a focus on regional examples that capture key farming systems within both China and the UK.

As Principal Investigator, Laurence Smith will coordinate a team of experienced researchers from SOAS, Lancaster University and British Geological Survey in the UK, and from the Institute of Agro-Environmental Protection (IAP), Northwest A&F University, China Agricultural University and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China.

The project will run for three years and has a total value of £760,000