To produce food and feed, farming uses a range of inputs including fertilisers, pesticides, energy and animal feed. In addition, labour and land is required as well as depreciation of capital. Minimising the use of these inputs is an important policy driver to improve productivity and hence improve profitability whilst reducing the environmental impacts of farming. Farm practices and the use of inputs (particularly fertilisers and pesticides) directly influence the environmental pressures from farming including the quality, composition and availability of habitats and impact on air, water and soils. Volume of inputs may therefore be considered an indirect measure of pressure on a range of natural capital assets.
This indicator should be viewed alongside indicator ‘E2 Volume of agricultural production’ and other indicators in the framework relating to the condition of natural capital assets. The index of the volume of inputs is an overall measure of the total inputs used with price effects removed. This includes all inputs including intermediate consumption, land, labour and depreciation of capital.
Readiness and links to data
As of 2022, the data published on total factor productivity for England by farm type are no longer labelled as experimental statistics and are therefore considered to be a robust source of data for this indicator. The data presented here are collated via the Farm Business Survey and are updated annually. Data on the total factor productivity of the agricultural industry in the UK are still published as National Statistics.
Figure E3: Volume of inputs used in agricultural production
Table E3: Volume of inputs used in agricultural production
Trend description for E3
The volume of inputs used in agricultural production in England has shown an overall decline of 17% since 1990/1991. Most of this decline took place between the late 1990s and 2006. Following a period of increase up to 2017/2018, there have been year-on-year declines, and in the latest year (2021/2022) the volume of inputs used in agricultural production in England fell by 5%.
Assessment of change
Little or no change in volume of inputs used in agricultural production has been observed over the short term, and in the medium term. This is in contrast to long-term decreasing trends. It is not possible to simplistically categorise these changes as either an ‘improvement’ or ‘deterioration’ for the environment as this will depend on the types of input driving change. An increase in inputs of pesticide and fertiliser would likely have a negative effect, but this indicator also includes other inputs such as labour. This indicator is included in the Outcome Indicator Framework to help interpret the reasons behind changes in ‘E4 Efficiency of agricultural production measured by Total Factor Productivity’.
Change since 2018 has also been assessed. There has been a decrease in volume of inputs used in agricultural production since 2018, based on 4 years of data. We set a minimum of 5 data points for the production of a robust trend for this assessment so this result should be treated with caution until the next iteration is available.
Further information on this assessment, along with details on the methodology, is provided in the Assessment background page. Summaries by 25 Year Environment Plan goal and information on indicator links are presented in the Assessment results pages.
Table E3: Assessment of change
|Component||Subcomponent||Period||Date range||Percentage change||Smoothing function||Assessment of change|
|E3||None||Short term||2015/2016 to 2020/2021||-0.51||Loess||Little or no change|
|E3||None||Medium term||2010/2011 to 2020/2021||1.96||Loess||Little or no change|
|E3||None||Long term||1990/1991 to 2020/2021||-10.83||Loess||Change (decreasing)|
Note that assessment categories were assigned based on smoothed data, so percent change figures in Table E3 may differ from unsmoothed values quoted elsewhere.