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2019 US-UK Scientific Forum on Sustainable Agriculture

March 5-6, 2020
Washington, DC

Topics that were covered include food security in a rapidly changing climate, agriculture’s impacts on biodiversity and environmental health, agroecosystem productivity, consumption behaviors, and future challenges.

Click here for a list of Forum participants.

Click here for the Forum report The Challenge of Feeding the World Sustainably


(YouTube videos linked where available)

Thursday, March 5, 2020 - Day One Welcome

1 - Welcome and Framing Remarks - Agriculture for a full earth - David Tilman • Regents Professor; Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota

Theme 1: Enhancing food security in a rapidly changing climate:

This session will explore the effect of the climate crisis on our ability to produce and access nutritious food — changing weather patterns, seasons and the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — and potential solutions from changes in technology and agricultural practices.

2 - Keynote 1 - Reaping the benefits – ten years on: David Baulcombe • Regius Professor of Botany, University of Cambridge

3 - Keynote 2 - Key Findings from the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land: Cynthia Rosenzweig • Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Co-Chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC); Senior Research Scientist at The Earth Institute at Columbia University; Professor at Barnard College

4 - Panel 1 - Adapting agroecosystems to climate change: Nathan Mueller • Assistant Professor, Departments of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State University 

5 - Panel 1 - Enhancing food security: a look through the policy lens: Tim Lang • Professor of Food Policy, University College London

6 - Panel 1 - Resilient, Sustainable & Healthy Food System and the Role of International Trade: Pauline Scheelbeek • Assistant Professor in Nutritional and Environmental Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 

7 - Panel 1 - Diversity, Stability and Productivity In Agriculture - David Tilman presented for Delphine Renard • Regents Professor; Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota  

8 - Panel 1 - Discussion - Moderator: Greg Lowry • Walter J. Blenko, Sr. Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University  

Theme 2: Agriculture’s positive and negative impacts on biodiversity and environmental health:

This session will focus on the ways in which agriculture impacts on biodiversity and environmental health, especially through land use change but also synthetic inputs and water and air pollution. Solutions involving economic incentives to prevent land use change and restore degraded land will be discussed.

9 - Keynote 3 - Agriculture and nitrogen in a changing climate: G Philip Robertson • University Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Science, Michigan State University

10 - Keynote 4 - Feeding the world without costing the earth: Andrew Balmford • Professor of Conservation Science, University of Cambridge

11 - Panel 2 - Managing Soil Carbon for Food and Climate: Rattan Lal • Professor of Soil Science, Ohio State University; Director, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center; Adjunct Professor, University of Iceland 

12 - Panel 2 - Reducing agricultural dependence on inorganic fertilisers through mutualistic microbial associations: Giles Oldroyd • Professor of Crop Science, University of Cambridge

13 - Panel 2 - Nanoparticle based DNA delivery for plant genetic engineering: Markita Landry • Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

14 - Panel 2 - Moving Toward Sustainable Agriculture: Agroecosystem productivity and agro-food system efficiency using community capitals: Cornelia Flora • Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Sociology Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University and Research Professor, Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, Kansas State University 

15 - Panel 2 - Discussion - Moderator: Eileen Wall • Professor, Livestock Genetics and Systems, Scotland’s Rural College

Theme 3: Agroecosystem productivity and agro-food system efficiency:

This session will focus on the production element of food systems and how we can maintain or increase food supply as necessary whilst reducing environmental impacts. Sustainable intensification, uptake of digital and genetic technologies, yield gap, food waste in storage and transportation, and crop ecology, diversity and inter-cropping will all be amongst the solutions discussed.

16 - Keynote 5 - FarmBeats: Empowering Farmers with Affordable Digital Agriculture Solutions: Ranveer Chandra • Chief Scientist, Microsoft Azure Global

17 - Keynote 6 - Biotic and abiotic challenges to food production - sustainable solutions?: Sue Hartley • Vice President for Research, University of Sheffield 

18 - Panel 3 - Customizing crops for urban agriculture: Zach Lippman • Professor & HHMI Investigator, Jacob Goldfield Professor of Genetics, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

19 - Panel 3 - Improving photosynthetic efficiency for improved crop yield potential: Donald Ort • Robert Emerson Professor in Plant Biology and Crop Sciences, University of Illinois

20 - Panel 3 - Food system transformation for systemic efficiency: Tom Oliver • Professor of Applied Ecology, University of Reading

21 - Panel 3 - Designing sustainable solutions with the system in mind: Leanne Gilbertson • Assistant Professor, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

22 - Panel 3 - Discussion - Moderator: Susan McCouch • Professor, Plant Breeding and Genetics, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University 

Day One Roundup

23 - Day One Roundup - David Tilman • Regents Professor; Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota

Friday, March 6, 2020 - Day Two Welcome

24 - Welcome To Day Two - Tim Benton • Director of Energy Environment and Resources Department, Chatham House

Theme 4: Consumption behaviours, nutrition, and policy:

This session will discuss food consumption, particularly in developed countries, exploring such issues as food waste after purchase, diet and nutrition, trade and politics. Policy solutions involving education, economics and behaviour change will be discussed.

25 - Keynote 7 - Creating a path for healthy, sustainable diets’: Walter Willett • Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School 

26 - Keynote 8 - Paving the Way for Improved Nutrition and Sustainability in US Agriculture: Sally Rockey • Executive Director, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

27 - Panel 4 - Turning vicious circles into virtuous ones: Tim Benton • Director of Energy Environment and Resources Department, Chatham House

28 - Panel 4 - The health, environment, and economic impacts of agricultural subsidy reform - Marco Springmann • Senior Researcher in Population Health, University of Oxford

29 - Panel 4 - Securing the food of the future: Ian Boyd • Former Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Professor of Biology, University of St Andrews 

30 - Panel 4 - The question of fat in sustainable diets: Bojana Bajzelj • Researcher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

31 - Panel 4 - Discussion - Moderator: Rachel Warren • Professor of Global Change and Environmental Biology, Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia 

Workshop Feedback Sessions

One member of each group will feed back to the rest of the participants, using their presentation slide.

32 - Group 1 - How can we ensure that food production (sufficient food for a healthy life) is not increasing our climate risk and biodiversity loss?

33 - Group 2 - Using previous sustainability goals as a starting point (particularly sustainable development goals 2: zero hunger and 12: responsible consumption and production), what can we aim to achieve for food security by 2030?

34 - Group 3 - What are the main barriers to sustainable agriculture production and how can they be overcome?

35 - Group 4 - What are the main priorities for sustainable agriculture and how should they be balanced?

36 - Group 5 - What policy mechanisms are there to ensure food consumption is aligned with responsible food production, diet and nutritional needs? How effective are they?

37 - Discussion

Forum Conclusions And Next Steps

38 - Forum Conclusions And Next Steps - Sue Wessler, Susan McCouch, and Tim Benton



The US-UK Scientific Forum was established in 2008 to help the scientific leadership of the United Kingdom and the United States forge an enduring and productive partnership on pressing topics of worldwide scientific concern with benefit to all people. Forums take place annually on topics selected by the officers of the NAS and the RS, alternating between venues in the U.S. and England. Each is generally attended by 40 to 50 researchers, about half from each country, in disciplines related to the topic area. A summary of the presentations and discussion at each Forum is available online.

Photo Credit: Tompkins Conservation Archive

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