A new tool to help those advising landowners make better decisions

A new tool to help those advising landowners make better decisions

Conflicting advice from the government and professional agencies is one of the biggest challenges farmers face when managing their land. Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery scientists have been studying this issue and have developed a tool to aid all those involved in the industry.

Dr Emilie Vrain, Senior Research Associate, and Leilai Immel-Parkinson, a former Research Assistant, interviewed farm advisors across government, industry, and non-profit organisations in England. Dr Vrain said:

“Those who own and manage land are often decision makers, holding a unique and powerful position for implementing land-use changes for nature recovery, for example, through pollution mitigation or habitat creation.”

The researchers say the role of advisory organisations, also known as extension services, in supporting nature recovery is vital to support land managers by providing knowledge of suitable nature recovery measures and any grants that may be available to them.

Conflicting recommendations carry the risk of fragmentation within an advisory sector. Additionally, the researchers say different environmental landscapes present a series of varying physical and social challenges for nature recovery.

In particular, the researchers looked at diffuse water pollution from agriculture, (DWPA). This is contamination of water environments resulting from pollutants such as fertilisers, pesticides and sediment from farming activities.

Leilai Immel-Parkinson added:

“These decision-makers can face multiple challenges for carrying out these changes, for example, lacking access to up-to-date knowledge, financial barriers or conflicting business aims. However, increasingly, land managers are seeking to diversify their core activities and implement voluntary measures for nature recovery.”

The Niche Mapper analytical framework provides insight for how best to support the sector in terms of both agri-environment policy and the direction of government initiates such as Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF). CSF is an English farm advice programme funded by the UK Government. It works with farmers, communities, and organisations across England to improve the quality of water, air, and sustainable water management.

The research was co-funded by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery.

Read more about the project here