Janet Dwyer leads Nutrient Management Expert Group report

Professor Janet Dwyer OBE has chaired an expert group commissioned by the Government to find ways to mitigate the impact of some farming practices on air quality, public health and the environment.

Led by Professor Dwyer (pictured below), the Nutrient Management Expert Group (NMEG) was set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to make recommendations about how to minimise pollution from the use, manufacture, storage and distribution of nutrients arising from agriculture and intended for crops.

Improving nutrient management offers major opportunities for enhancing soil health, improving water and air quality, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and managing resources sustainably.

Since the NMEG was commissioned in 2020, the international energy crisis has tripled fertiliser prices, highlighting the urgency of taking action on economic as well as environmental grounds.

Comprising agricultural policy experts, agronomists, scientists and economists, the NMEG was tasked with exploring the more efficient use of organic and inorganic nutrients, limiting ammonia emissions, reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and water and soil pollution, and protecting and restoring sensitive habitats, while also considering the need for food production and the nutrient requirements of society. 

In its new report, the group’s recommendations include the development of the group’s recommendations include the development of a strategy to encourage more effective nutrient management; increased public and private investment in innovation in the food system and sustainable land management; nutrient budgeting to be established as a basic standard for all farmers and land managers; recycling of nutrients from waste products within farming and the wider food chain to be promoted to support a greener approach to food production.

Professor Janet Dwyer with a field and trees in the background

Professor Dwyer, Professor of Rural Policy and a former Director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute, said: “Nutrient management is a significant concern and demands a co-ordinated, long-term and strategic approach that is adaptable and monitored effectively.

“The significant challenge of meeting current and proposed future environmental targets will require wider change across the agri-food sector, and more radical shifts in practices of food production, supply and consumption.

“New policy approaches must be balanced with wider land use strategies, ensuring food, water and energy security are also considered so that shifts are sustainable for the long term.”

Professor Dwyer was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022 for her services to rural research over more than three decades.

The NMEG membership comprised chair Professor Janet Dwyer OBE, Professor Dave Chadwick (Bangor University), Professor Jess Davies (University of Lancaster), Dr Vera Eory (Scotland’s Rural College), Professor Alex Inman (University of Exeter), Professor Penny Johnes (University of Bristol), James Price (Perdiswell Farm), Professor Mark Sutton (UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), Dr Rachel Thorman (ADAS), Professor Sami Ullah (University of Birmingham), Professor Andy Whitmore (Rothamsted Research) and John Williams (ADAS).

The report can also be accessed on the University of Gloucestershire’s Research Repository.