Gleanings - AF Weekly news summary
21st September 2023

Here’s what caught our eyes and ears in the agri news from UK and further afield this week.

Birds-eye view on predator solutions

In the Guardian a report about conservationist Elizabeth Bell saving island bird populations shows what’s spearheaded the destruction of invasive predators on islands in New Zealand. The effect of these predators is particularly acute in New Zealand, as until Europeans arrived there were no indigenous land mammals in the country. The introduction of rats, stoats, possums and ferrets devastated the native fauna.

Bell has had success eliminating predatory species on some of the islands around New Zealand which has meant that critically endangered native birds can recover their populations. She has also exported the method and has worked as far afield as the Caribbean and the Channel Islands.

This work is critically important in light of a recent UN report warning that invasive species cost at least $423bn globally every year, and have become a major threat to the diversity of species on the planet.


Sacré-Bleu! France’s farming flip-flop

The French government has done a major about-turn on farming policy, with the agriculture minister Marc Fesneau stating at a large industry gathering “we have to admit that we must work on the entry level” meat supply chain and focus on intensive production. “Animal welfare issues only work if we find someone to pay” he added.

President Emmanuel Macron upset the intensive sector in 2017 when he demanded that they stop production of meat which no longer met the consumers tastes! It appears, however, that 11% food inflation has pushed 40% of organic shoppers out of the market.

They could be on the cusp of a double win though, if intensive producers can address the environmental and welfare issues which so angered the Government, and fulfil the demand for lower price meat.

High accolade for Harper Adams

Harper Adams has been named as the first ever Specialist University of the Year in the Times and the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024.

The award for the Shropshire college was announced last Friday (15 September) when the guide was published.

Harper Adams vice-chancellor, Professor Ken Sloan, said “Specialist universities make a distinctive contribution to the national and international reputation of higher education in the United Kingdom. Students who choose to study with them do so because of their purpose, their focus, and their undistracted commitment to their disciplines.”

We know that a lot of AF Members and colleagues are alumni of Harper Adams, and must be very proud. They and the college have our warmest congratulations on this accolade.


Environment Agency bubble

The New Scientist reported that the Environment Agency deployed equipment to pump oxygen into rivers on 25 occasions in just last year, and there was a total of 74 deployments  2018-2021. The reason is to prevent fish and plant deaths where the water has become critically depleted of oxygen.

The EA deploys a couple of methods for oxygenation, using liquid hydrogen peroxide which breaks down into water and oxygen. They also use mechanical aerators that disturb the water surface to allow air capture.

Gary Caldwell, senior lecturer in applied marine biology at Newcastle University said “The use of emergency aeration shows that fish populations in a number of England’s rivers are on life support. Our changing climate is expected to bring increasingly prolonged periods of low rainfall, which, compounded by sewage and agricultural runoff, could mean that artificial oxygenation becomes the new normal, making our rivers’ wildlife that little bit less wild.” 


Tweet of the week

Not very agricultural, but quite funny.