Writtle News

Writtle College’s global research celebrated as part of World Environment Day

June 2015

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Writtle College is emphasising the importance of sustainably managing the planet’s resources for future generations.

The College’s research and activities are positioned centrally in the major challenges facing the world, from fundamental issues to do with food security and deforestation to sustaining natural ecosystems to provide vital benefits and services for mankind.

As part of World Environment Day on Friday 5 June, it is echoing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s emphasis on the need for action to ensure a healthy future for the planet and for the people who live on it, both now and in the future, and many of its current research projects are focussed on strategies that will protect natural resources.

In the area of food security, current research projects are engaging with local and international business to tackle problems of inefficiencies in agricultural management and post-harvest processing of food.

In the wider sphere of sustainability, academics at Writtle are working with colleagues from partner institutes in Europe on projects linked to Biosphere Reserve management in Central America, Namibia, Kazakhstan and Brazil. Academics are also working on the evaluation of global certification schemes for the sustainable management of forests (FSC) in Russia and a palm oil certification scheme in Borneo.

Writtle College’s students are contributing to research and analysis that is furthering our understanding of how to use our planet in a sustainable way. For example, Agriculture at Writtle is taught within the framework of the principles of sustainability and Integrated Farm Management.

Henry Matthews, Senior Lecturer in Agriculture and Farm Management, said: “As the industry strives to feed 9 billion people by 2050 it must do so without compromising the environment. The development of a symbiotic relationship between farming and the environment is not only a tenet of responsible practice but is also enshrined in the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Student work reflects this, for example recent research has centred on cover crops which are sown between two regular crops and these can have a variety of benefits which include maintaining soil structure, controlling pests, suppressing weeds and taking up Nitrogen which would otherwise be leached into the water supply. This has benefits to the farmer in saving costs on subsequent crops and to the environment by reducing pesticide use and preventing pollution of the water supply.”

Specific details of some of the research projects at Writtle College include:

• Collaborating with scientific staff from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to develop robust and adaptable models for sustainable agro-forestry in that part of the world. The proposed project will include sharing of expertise and knowledge through a programme of workshops together with the initiation of site-based activities to showcase best practices in sustainable land management.

• Assessing the effectiveness of a palm oil certification scheme in certified palm oil plantations in Sabah, Borneo.

• Supporting community-based action to help safeguard the Caprivi strip of the Okovango swamps in Namibia.

• In partnership with Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development and under the umbrella of the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, launching online training resources and case studies in adaptive management and vulnerability analysis for conservation in several languages at http://www.marisco.training.

• Concluding, in September, a three-year project towards a UNESCO World Heritage designation status for a trans-boundary biosphere reserve within the Altai mountains.

Other activities involving students on the issue of sustainability include:

• Design and Sustainable Land Management Masters students working with the City of Chelmsford’s planning department on flood mitigation design for the River Chelmer.

• MSc Sustainable Land Management and BSc Conservation students working with the Wilderness Foundation on assessing ecosystem services of a higher level environmental stewardship scheme for Chatham Farm, Essex.

• MSc Horticulture and Postharvest Technology students working with UK and international companies to reduce storage/losses in potatoes and bananas.

• MSc Conservation Management students working on the National Trust’s Neptune enterprise initiative. They have developed an interactive board game for the National Trust’s forthcoming public coastal heritage awareness day in July on Northy Island on the River Blackwater.

• BSc Conservation students working in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust to train students in the detailed habitat assessment of lowland rivers in Essex.

• BSc/MSc students working with a team of international students from Germany and professional staff from the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve to assess the socio-ecological status of the landscape across the Ukrainian Carpathians.

• MSc Horticulture and Postharvest Technology students working with the environmental ministry and academic institutes in Kurdistan to assess the potential for using biological control measures to control food crop infestation.

• MSc Horticulture and Postharvest Technology students working with UK retail industry to devise sustainable measures of prolonging shelf-life of food produce, particularly soft fruits, plums and potatoes.

• MSc Conservation and BSc Agriculture students working with agricultural industry, including Strutt & Parker, to assess the value of cover crops using the long term sustainable management and conservation of soils.

Dr Peter Hobson, Principal Lecturer in Conservation at Writtle College and Co-director of the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management, said: “In its specialist way, Writtle intends to steer its research and academic activities in the direction of existing wider national and international strategies and activities that have been put in place to build a sustainable future for the world’s people.

“At Writtle, we all believe in the essential need to expose our students to learning underpinned by research that has direct relevance to the kinds of environmental and socio-economic problems facing land-based industry.”

* Image by digitalart