Agriculture and environment

Our researchers are looking for ways to increase farming productivity in a changing environment. At the same time we need to find more efficient ways to use water and energy, and reduce the reliance on nitrogen-based fertilisers.

This is in response to the need to feed a growing population, but also to reduce our environmental impact. An increasing demand for food means a rising demand for water and energy for agriculture.

This will lead to climate change reducing water supply in many of the world’s major agricultural regions, while manufacturing fertilisers for food production contributes to an unacceptable increase in CO2 emissions.

“It is great to see Leeds adopting an interdisciplinary approach to address the challenge faced by agriculture of needing more sustainable and productive agricultural systems.”

Richard Heathcote, R&J Sustainability Consulting Ltd.

Our research focus

Taking a multi-disciplinary and integrative approach, our research tackles the biggest challenges in sustainable food production. Our broad expertise covers all aspects of food and farming systems, from fundamental crop, soil and animal science through to robotics and machine learning, our research spans the following key areas:  

Our projects

We're working to enhance soil fertility in China. The research aims to meet the country's increasing food production needs. It is led by Professor Steve Banwart in partnership with N8 Agrifood. The programme is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China.

PigSustain includes an automated and continuous monitoring system to assess the health and welfare of pigs. It will be trialled at the University of Leeds farm. The £2.1M project draws on a multi-systems approach to predict the future resilience of the UK pig industry.

Smart Agri-Systems helps industry navigate the complex future challenges for sustainable development of global food production. It does this through providing innovative, multi-discipline, systems-based solutions.

Our collaborations

On the ACRES programme, we are working with Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, a consultancy organisation dedicated to preparing the way for securing climate-resilient sustainable development in Africa.

Our leading researchers

Professor Katie Field is Professor in Plant-Soil Processes and the Associate Director for the Agriculture and Environment area of the Institute. She specialises in the environmental physiology of plant-fungal symbioses, climate change and sustainable agriculture. 

Professor Helen Miller is Professor of Animal Bioscience and Director of the University's farm. Her research is focused on enhancing animal health, performance and meat quality.

Professor Lisa Collins is Professor in Animal Sciences in our School of Biology. She is researching the use of epidemiological methods and statistical approaches to improving animal welfare. She is leading the £2.1M PigSustain project

Professor Steve Banwart is Leeds’ Leadership Chair in Soil/Water/Agriculture research. He leads multidisciplinary research into Earth’s critical zone – the area from the tops of trees to the bottom of the groundwater.

For enquiries about agriculture and environment, email globalfood@leeds.ac.uk or phone +44 (0)113 343 7996.