Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems (ASSIST) is a long-term National Capability programme, jointly funded by NERC and BBSRC. With support from the farming industry, ASSIST will meet the challenge of feeding growing populations without causing unacceptable environmental damage.

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in partnership with Rothamsted Research and British Geological Survey will develop innovative farming systems that increase food production with more efficient use of inputs to:

  • Increase efficiency of food production
  • Improve resilience to extreme events
  • Reduce the environmental foot print of agriculture

What do we mean by “sustainable intensification”?

The goal of sustainable intensification of agriculture is to increase simultaneously food production from existing farmland whilst improving environmental quality and outcomes. This will require a combination of better management of natural resources and crops, and an ecosystems-approach to farming.

Following the publication of the UK Royal Society’s highly influential report, Reaping the Benefits, and a number of other major scientific and policy reports, this concept is considered central to ensuring food security and a healthy environment for future generations.


ASSIST Outcomes:

We will utilise advances in ground survey, sensor networks, modelling and informatics, and a network of experimental study farms to achieve:

  • Better understanding of current and future limitations on crop production.
  • Robust predictions of impacts of intensification on the wider environment and mitigation strategies.
  • Innovative techniques to enhance the natural processes underpinning food production.
  • New ways to combine nature-based and agri-tech farming system for improved production.
  • Strategies to increase the resilience of agroecosystems to future environmental stressors.
  • Tools for planning future land management that optimise these benefits while minimising trade-offs and conflicts.

Programme directors:

Prof. Richard Pywell. ASSIST Programme Director, CEH

Dr Jonathan Storkey. ASSIST Programme Director, Rothamsted Research

Dr Claire Carvell. ASSIST Programme Co-ordinator, CEH