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Optimising agriculture for a changing climate: which farming practices confer stability of food production and farm income?

Harkness, C. (2022) Optimising agriculture for a changing climate: which farming practices confer stability of food production and farm income? PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00113532


Food stability, described by the IPCC as the continuous availability and access to food without disruption, is one of the four pillars of food security. Extreme events and climatic variability can disrupt stability and are expected to increase due to climate change. Improving the stability of yields and farm income is identified as an important area of research. However, there remains few quantitative assessments examining the factors affecting stability of agricultural systems, particularly at the farm level. The main objectives of this thesis are to examine changes in the probability of adverse weather events across the UK in the 21st Century, as well as, examine the relative effect of climate variability, subsidies and farming practices on the stability of food production and farm income. The main aims are to provide knowledge on the impact of adverse weather on the stability of agriculture, now and in the future, and provide recommendations to improve stability in the context of a changing climate and more variable conditions. I used crop-climate modelling to examine changes in the frequency, magnitude and spatial patterns of adverse weather conditions throughout the UK during 21st century. I then analysed empirical data, using multilevel modelling, to examine the effects of farming practices, subsidies and climate variability on the stability of food production and income. Results demonstrate that climatic changes, in particular rainfall patterns, threaten agricultural production and the stability of agriculture. However, farming practices have a large effect on stability in comparison to climate. The three key aspects of farm management and policy identified to improve stability were: increasing agricultural diversity, increasing the efficiency of agrochemical use and agri-environmental management. These novel findings have important implications for adaptation and suggest that farmers, supported by policymakers, may have opportunities to improve stability in the face of more variable conditions.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Bishop, J.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Agriculture, Policy & Development
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:113532
Date on Title Page:August 2021


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