COP21 Guest blog – Prof. Christine Foyer

Christine Foyer is a Professor of Plant Science at the University, and leads the Human Health and Food Security project.

Modelling European Agriculture with Climate Change for Food Security (MACSUR)
-A FACCE-JPI Knowledge Hub

Evidence of climate change will be observed more and more frequently in the coming years. These changes are likely to be only the precursors of even worse changes that will affect almost all aspects of our society, including the environment, industries, economics and even our culture. Agriculture is one of the sectors that is most exposed to the negative impact of climate change. As the global population is expected to top nine billion in 2050, the demand for food and animal feed is likely to increase by up to 70%. To keep up with population growth, more food will have to be produced worldwide within the next 50 years than has been produced during the past 10,000 years. To meet this challenge even more difficult, the agriculture-related effects of climate change are predicted to be mainly negative. Together with likely decreases in crop yields, the predictability of yields and crop quality will be adversely affected, and new pests, weeds and diseases might threaten plants in all habitats. The projected increase of extreme rainfall events will increase the risk of soil erosion and nitrate leaching. A wide spectrum of mitigating factors, comprising soil conservation techniques, alternative agro-management practices, plant breeding, innovative ICT control and monitoring systems and simulation modelling tools, has to be employed to meet these challenges.

The University of Leeds plays an important role in the MACSUR Knowledge Hub, which comprises over 300 scientists from 80 research groups across Europe promoting Climate-Smart Agriculture. MACSUR is a nexus of capacity building, analysing how crops, livestock and the economy of Europe will be affected by Climate Change in order to address environmental, socio-economic and policy issues. MACSUR improves and integrates models of crop and livestock production, farms, and national & international agri-food markets through interdisciplinary collaboration. The hub not only builds research capacity and hands-on-training in integrative modelling for junior and senior researchers; but it also demonstrates integrated model-based analysis for representative farming systems in selected regions through case studies; analyses effects of climate change on the major farming systems in Europe; identifies climate-induced risks to farming, and develops effective adaptation and mitigation options together with different stakeholders. MACSUR uses regional case studies to assess the consequences of adaptation and mitigation measures for farming competitiveness, the environment and rural development at multiple scales (farm, regional, national and European).

Teams in Earth and Environment and the Centre for Plant Sciences at the University of Leeds are involved in project co-ordination and they also lead the UK regional case study, within the MACSUR project. The case studies facilitate the interlinked development of a conceptual framework of actual models and model links to assist policy makers and actors in the agri-food chain to identify effective and efficient adaptation and mitigation measures and potential consequence scenarios, e.g. impact on food yield, quality, nutritive value, disease load etc. in perceived hotspots of climate impacts. The studies are geared to answering key questions, such as “What would be the different contributions of different European adaptation strategies to global food security until 2050 at different scales (farm to EU) while keeping the GHG targets? What investments are necessary? What are the implications?”.

An inventory and evaluation of current UK Climate Change-related research activities will also help to identify gaps in our Climate Change adaptation methodologies, highlighting new or neglected research areas and strengthening the collaboration between UK research groups as well with other research organizations in Europe and beyond. Crucially, this work will help the exploitation information and prediction for the benefit of a diverse range of stake holders particularly farmers and policy makers.

Fodor Nandor and Christine H. Foyer, Centre for Plant Sciences

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MACSUR methodology: Interdisciplinary and multi-scale integration of models for sustainable food and feed production.