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Stephen Ramsden

Associate Professor in Management and Director of University Farm, Faculty of Science

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Biography

BSc Agriculture, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1982-85

Family Farm, North Yorkshire 1985-1989

PhD, Agricultural Economics, University of Nottingham 1989-1993

Lecturer, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham 1993- present.

University Farm Director, University of Nottingham 2005- present

Expertise Summary

Applied Agricultural Economics and Rural Business Management: Agri-environmental systems modeling, mitigation of environmental damage from agriculture, adaptation to environmental and policy change, effects of adaptation on farm performance and efficiency, management of risk, measurement of sustainability, integration of agricultural science and economics.

Teaching Summary

I teach Agricultural Economics, Farm Management and Agricultural Systems Modelling as part of the undergraduate, masters and research postgraduate programmes at Nottingham. My particular interest is… read more

Research Summary

Agricultural systems modelling

Agricultural systems encompass people, output and input activities, and constraints. Farmers make decisions about what outputs to produce and what inputs to use within limits imposed by physical (e.g. 'machines'), natural (e.g. 'soil') and human (e.g. 'labour and skills') constraints. Decision making is influenced by markets and policies and farmers' attitudes to factors such as risk and financial performance. Changes in the natural environment affect agricultural systems and farmers may need to adapt; agriculture affects natural systems and farmers may need to mitigate. The purpose of constructing models is to capture these different elements of the farm system, to understand how they interact and to assess the implications of change: whether this be introducing bioenergy crops, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating nitrate loss, adapting to climate change or estimating the effects of new policies on agricultural production, human health and indicators of environmental outcomes. Modelling approaches can also be integrated into other (laboratory, field, survey) approaches used by staff in the School of Biosciences.

Current research work addresses a range of agri-environmental issues. As part of the Nottingham LACE project, a model (MEETA, 'Modelling Energy and Emissions Trade-offs in Agriculture') has been used to assess the system effects of producing farm outputs (cereal straw, the perennial crops miscanthus and short rotation coppice) for bioenergy. Together with attitudinal data collected through farmer surveys, results help us to understand the relatively low uptake of bioenergy production by UK farmers under current market and policy conditions.

Ongoing work in Ghana is assessing the environmental impact of a different bioenergy crop: jatropha ('physic nut'). The modelling technique in this case is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). We also use LCA in northern Thailand, to assess the system implications of reducing the environmental impact of rice production on both human and ecosystem toxicity. Reducing these impacts has implications for risk and the financial management of the farm, particularly the amount of capital that is needed for crop inputs - many farmers in northern Thailand grow three crops in one year. A farm sustainability index has also been developed: this aggregates risk exposure, social, financial and environmental outcomes into one measure. Our focus for Indonesian rice production is different: here, there are two important research questions. First, how can we improve efficiency of rice production, for example, how can we gain more output for a given combination of land, labour and capital inputs for a given set of rice varieties? Second, what are the implications of climate change for Indonesian rice production? We employ a range of modelling approaches to address these questions. Two PhD studentships based on data from Saudi Arabia continue the efficiency theme; the first addresses efficiency in flour mills, the second seeks to explain factors that influence farmers' repayment (or non-repayment) of agricultural loans.

Work in Thailand on sustainability is complemented by our work in the UK: Nottingham is a partner in Defra's Sustainable Intensification Platform (May 2014 onwards for three years). The objective is to develop indicators and methodologies for farmers and advisers to measure economic, environmental and social performance of farms.

Recent Publications

I teach Agricultural Economics, Farm Management and Agricultural Systems Modelling as part of the undergraduate, masters and research postgraduate programmes at Nottingham. My particular interest is bringing through current thinking in Agricultural Economics and showing its relevance to Agricultural Science: scarcity, marginality as a concept for decision making, externalities good and bad, public goods, the nature of agricultural markets, evolution of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Past Research

Please see publications.

Future Research

The current research agenda for agriculture emphasises the idea of sustainable intensification - how it can be achieved and how it can be measured. This is essentially a question of how we make better use of agricultural resources while acknowledging and measuring the effects that agriculture has on the environment. Future research will therefore address the following three questions.

As agriculture modernises it becomes more specialised and input and output levels per unit of land increase. Given standard market and policy conditions, is this specialisation resilient to environmental and policy change?

Sustainable intensification of agricultural systems, for example, by increasing soil organic matter, will take time, with short run costs that may deter many farmers from following a more sustainable time-path. What are these costs and how do we reduce them?

There is a wealth of research information available that can help us improve agriculture. What are the appropriate policies and methods (regulation, taxes and incentives, public extension work?) for transferring appropriate information to farmer practitioners?

School of Biosciences

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough
LE12 5RD, UK

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