Aberdeen to lead £1.1M project with China to develop smart tools for farming

Aberdeen to lead £1.1M project with China to develop smart tools for farming

An international collaboration led by the University of Aberdeen has received more than £1.1M to carry out a project designed to inform and guide policy and farming in China, with a view to finding a solution to pollution.

Together with a team of 12 UK partners and 15 Chinese Institutions, the project will build upon previously conducted studies in a bid to develop sophisticated, but simple to use, tools that can guide policy and farming. This will range from smartphone apps that farmers can use in the field to specialist software that can test the environmental impacts of farm practices over large areas of land.

The project, MIDST-CZO, which has received £1.1M funding from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) and further funding from the National Science Foundation of China, is a continuation of other China-UK projects.

Professor Paul Hallett, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences is leading the project. He said: “This project follows on from what was, arguably, the deepest ever study of agricultural impacts to soil and water in China. Most studies of soils have been limited to shallow depths, but these new findings have shed a lot of light on just how much applied fertilisers may be seeping out of soils to pollute water and air.

“Much more was studied in these projects than ever before, including pathogen movement, soil formation, erosion, and greenhouse gases. They also considered social factors driving farming practice and explored how farmers get information on better practices.  By studying everything from the tops of trees to the bedrock beneath the soil, these projects contributed to a global network of Critical Zone Observatories.  This has produced a wealth of knowledge that will allow our new follow-on project MIDST-CZO to seek a step-change in improved practices and policy in China to sustain soil and water resources.

“Farming is changing rapidly in China with a strong drive to reverse soil degradation, use less fertiliser and water, and clean up impacts to the environment.  The new tools we are developing aim to give policy makers and farmers confidence that they can achieve win-wins of less costs, greater yields and more profit, coupled with a lower impact of farming to the environment.

“We hope our tools will help innovate agricultural production in other parts of the world, aiming to improve the profitability of farming and its environmental impact at the same time.”

Professor Steve Banwart from the University of Leeds added: "This project harnesses a huge pool of talent from both countries and links it to practical advances for farmers and companies involved in agriculture in China, and contributes to global efforts to supply safe food, pure water and a clean environment to future generations."

Professor Ganlin Zhang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Soil Science is one of the lead scientists involved from China.  He said: “We are looking forward to continued collaboration with our colleagues in the UK.  The observatories established in China are producing fascinating findings on how the environment works, so it is exciting to use this new information to guide better farming practices.”

“We hope our tools will help innovate agricultural production in other parts of the world, aiming to improve the profitability of farming and its environmental impact at the same time.”

 

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