Interesting article in my msn newsfeed this morning by Miranda Bryant of the Guardian newspaper, about a two year research project that confirms what us allotment plot holders have always known, in many ways I would say allotment plots can be more productive than conventional farms.
Click on the photo below to read the original article online. As articles get removed or the links get broken I have posted a copy of the original article below the photograph.
City allotments have the ability to rival the productivity of conventional farms, according to new research.
A two-year pilot study by the University of Sussex found that volunteer urban growers in Brighton and Hove were able to harvest 1kg of insect-pollinated fruit and vegetables per sq metre in a season – which researchers said put their yields within the range of conventional farms.
The project, which analysed the yields of 34 “citizen scientists” growing fruit and vegetables on their allotments, gardens and balconies, found that despite limited pesticide use they were each able to grow an average of £550 worth of produce between March and October.
Of the total figure, £380 of it was from insect-pollinated produce - such as squash, courgettes, blackberries, tomatoes, apples and beans – weighing an average of 70kg.
Berries were the most attractive crop to pollinators, the study found.
Across the two-year period, volunteers recorded more than 2,000 pollinating insects among their crops. The most common were bees, which accounted for 43% of all flower visits.
Dr Beth Nicholls, who led the study, which is as yet unpublished and yet to be peer-reviewed, is due to present her findings at Ecology Across Borders conference on Wednesday.
She said: “The growing was surprisingly productive. And some people were harvesting a lot more than that – up to 10kg per sq metre. And this is just in insect-pollinated crops, so it’s an underestimation really.”
Participants were provided with calculators which told them how much it would cost them to buy the food they were growing at the supermarket and how dependent their yield was on insect pollination.
Nicholls, who is a pollination ecologist, said the growers used less pesticides than conventional farming techniques – they were used in under 10% of pest cases – and that the most common pests were slugs, snails and aphids. The worst-affected produce was soft fruit and beans.
She said the study demonstrated the value of urban food production and how it could be used to reduce food deserts by growing food “closer to where people are” while also reducing food miles and transportation costs.
There are 10,435 allotments in the UK, spanning 7,920 hectares, according to 2019 figures from the Office for National Statistics. A recent survey by the Association for Public Service Excellence, due to be published next week, found that 37% of councils report more than 1,000 people on waiting lists for allotments and over a third of councils are looking to increase their allotment provision amid a huge rise in demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
Following fears over food insecurity after Brexit, Nicholls said more could be done in the UK to use urban spaces to produce food and incorporate shared plots into new housing developments.
“The UK imports approximately £8bn of fruit and vegetables each year, but our results show that green spaces in cities, such as allotments and community gardens, could play an important role in meeting that demand at a local scale.”
Nicholls is also collaborating with researchers at the University of Calcutta in Kolkata who are looking at urban food production in India.
“In a world of increasing urbanisation in both the developing and developed worlds, producing food in and around cities has the potential to improve both nutritional and health outcomes, alleviate poverty and simultaneously provide habitat for wildlife and create sustainable cities.”