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Series Two: Episode Four

In the latest episode of the Louder than Words Podcast, Professor Jules Pretty journalist Martha Dixon look at sustainability – in what we eat – and how we use our land.

Academics from the University of Essex show us how they’re helping farmers meet our needs while saving the planet. They discover how Essex researchers are helping the reintroduction of beavers into habitats in the UK and how scientists are increasing crop yields to help feed our growing population.

Contributors include:

More about the show

Dr Tom Cameron has been working with Archie Ruggles-Brise from the Spains Hall Estate to help reintroduce beavers into the local habitat after 400 years. Providing scientific insights into the process of reintroduction and the impact of beavers.

Archie says: “What we are doing on the estate will give other people confidence is doing what we are doing.

“From our perspective it’s a really interesting partnership I would urge any land manager or any farmer to connect with research.”

Dr Cameron says the partnership has also brought many benefits to students: “We’ve been taking students to Spains Hall Estate. It’s exciting because the beavers have entered into a relatively dry woodland with a small stream and they’ve turned it into a thriving ecosystem. The students get to see the role that they would have in the future that would be their job, to gather evidence to change hearts and minds.”

Over the last 30 years Professor Christine Raines has been working to understand photosynthesis – the way plants capture sunlight and turn it into food. This could help us feed our planet in the future as the global population grows.

Professor Raines said: “Crops are plateauing. So we are looking for new approaches. New technologies. One of fundamental approaches to increase yield potential is through photosynthesis.”

Senior research officer Patricia Lopez works with Professor Raines. She says identifying bottlenecks in the photosynthesis process and looking at overcoming them can increase yields substantially and decrease water use: “This will have a huge impact in food production one day.”

Technician Kenny Brown adds: “Crop breeders are excited by just 2% - where we are seeing 27% it’s massive.”

Listen to the full episode on all major platforms.