City allotments have the ability to rival the productivity of conventional farms, according to a two-year pilot study by the University of Sussex.
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.
Dr Beth Nicholls, who led the study 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.” 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.
“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.” She explained “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.”
There are 10,435 allotments in the UK, spanning 7,920 hectares.