Evidencing how the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) delivers for soil health and food security

In November 2022 the Sustainable Soils Alliance and the University of Plymouth co-created a workshop exploring research priorities to help build the evidence base for soil health improvement through practices and actions undertaken as part of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). The workshop formed part of ELMs Exchange, a University of Plymouth-funded programme designed to kick-start collaborative, cross-sector research and innovation initiatives, specifically designed to help farmers and Defra evaluate how SFI will deliver for the environment, farm productivity and food security.

The workshop was attended by over 50 experts, policymakers and practitioners, bringing together a wide spectrum of organisations from farming, science, government and NGOs to discuss research needs, form collaborations and propose future projects.

We were glad to welcome a number of speakers who gave the workshop background on SFI. Claire Douglas (Rural Payments Agency), Mel Squires (NFU South Wes Regional Director) and Tom Tolputt and Anthony Ellis (SW Farm Consultants) set out the policy, agricultural and farm business context of the scheme, which was followed by brief Q&A.

Following the introductory speeches, delegates broke out into small groups to discuss the key challenges, knowledge gaps, and research priorities around evidencing SFI, and the wider knowledge and practice context needed for its success. The output from these conversations was fed back to the group in an engaging discussion chaired by Professor Richard Preziosi.

Moving towards looking at research options, speakers from the University of Plymouth (Will Blake, Jenny Milligan, Susan Eick and David Marshall) presented on cross-sector collaborative research, alternative funding opportunities, and knowledge transfer partnerships. This was followed by the second breakout in which the research priorities identified earlier were built upon to develop key themes for collaborations and projects.

The slides from all sessions can be found here, and you can read the workshop report here. If you'd like to find out more about the project visit the University of Plymouth website here, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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