Farmers urged to use compost under new food strategy

5 January 2010

The government has today (January 5) urged farmers to make use of on-site anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities to generate energy and encouraged them to use compost and digestate as fertilisers in its new strategy, Food 2030.

The strategy, which has been developed to integrate food policy across the UK and assure UK food security by 2030, has outlined a number of key aims including:

• Increasing food production sustainability
• Reducing the food systems greenhouse gas emissions
• Reducing, reusing and reprocessing waste

By 2030 the government wants to see a low carbon food system which is efficient with resources - meaning that any waste is reused, recycled or used for energy generation for the UK.Farmers are being encouraged to use compost

As part of this the strategy calls on the agricultural sector to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by embracing renewable energies and using methods such as AD and combined heat and power (CHP) to generate power on-site for food production.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, commented: "We know that the consequences of the way we produce and consume our food are unsustainable to our planet and to ourselves. There are challenges for everyone involved in the food system, from production right through to managing food waste."

The strategy claims that technologies such as combined heat and power and anaerobic digestion are well suited to parts of the food supply chain where energy needs are intensive and constant.

And, overall the government reiterates its commitment to "maximise the potential use of anaerobic digestion to reduce emissions and produce renewable energy".

Farmers are also encouraged under the strategy to use digestate from AD and compost as a fertiliser to reduce their reliance on artificial fertilisers derived from fossil fuels.

The strategy said: "Biological matter such as food waste can be recycled within the food production system. Appropriate treatment such as anaerobic digestion, composting and wormeries can produce good quality compost and soil improvers which provide high organic matter content and essential nutrients, helping maintain the productive capacity of soils."

The strategy calls on the food farming sector to reduce the use of and be more efficient with man made inputs such as fossil fuel-based energy and chemical fertiliser and instead use natural alternatives such as biogas and manure wherever possible.

AfOR

The Association for Organics Recycling welcomed the document. Managing director Jeremy Jacobs commented: "It's an example of joined-up thinking which is very positive."

The strategy highlights the importance of the farmers' role in supporting biodiversity and preventing soil erosion and Mr Jacobs said these were issues that application of compost to land could help with.

He added: "Compost can help with water retention, help tillage of the land and improve the workability of the soil. The use of compost is something we encourage because of its benefits in terms of sustainability compared to artificial fertilisers."