Factors such as climate change, population growth and a changing diet are posing a growing threat to global food supplies. The University is at the forefront of research to tackle this complex challenge and our work is contributing to international policy on food security.
Southampton has been leading research into agri-environmental management for over three decades, influencing farming in the UK and the rest of the world. With growing recognition of the need to secure food alongside the other important services required from the world's ecosystems, our research is influential in helping countries worldwide to manage their natural resources.
The latest research includes a multi-million pound project working with poor communities in Colombia and Malawi. The project aims to help people make decisions that will enable them to sustain food production for good nutrition and wellbeing, in ways that won't destroy the valuable ecosystem services provided by the Amazon and African forests.
Other studies, which are helping to inform the bigger picture, include looking at ways to reduce damage to crops caused by pests, without the use of harmful chemicals. Scientists are also developing the use of a wider variety of food plants. The aim is to reduce the risks inherent in relying on the small number of plants that currently provide the bulk of the world's food supplies, which could increase the resilience to future climate and environmental change.
Our research has a direct link to international policy development. For example, the University's GeoData Institute is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization on projects that are contributing to policies on food security in sub-Saharan Africa and Libya.
Guy Poppy, Professor of Ecology and Director of the University's multidisciplinary research strategy, says: "With a complex problem like food security it's essential that we take a broad approach, right across the social and natural sciences. At Southampton we are working with scientists and policymakers to tackle the issue from all sides."