Environmental Management for Agriculture

Environmental Management for Agriculture was the first topic that was researched when AERU was first established in the mid-90’s. There was the main Environmental Management for Agriculture (EMA) software project that operated for over 10 years, but also numerous related projects which are all outlined below.

1994-2017: Environmental Management for Agriculture (EMA) software and EMA online

Environmental Management for Agriculture (EMA) was an award-winning computer software package that provided a comprehensive suite of tools, information and assessment routines designed to help the farming industry improve its environmental performance. The software was for the 'public good' and included an advisory library, an environmental auditing system that provides immediate feedback on performance, more than 20 decision support tools and several management planning tools. The core of the software was developed between 1994 and 1997, and the first commercial version was released in 1998. EMA 2004 was the last version that was produced on CD. After 10 years of service (and over 4000 copies sold) it was retired in 2008 and is no longer for sale, but some copies are available for demonstration or educational purposes upon request. Some parts of the EMA system have gone on to form the foundation of other current tools and services. For example, the advisory library was used to build the foundation of the ADLib resource and the pesticide database, that was used in some of the decision support tools, has evolved in the Pesticide Properties DataBase (PPDB).

EMA Online was the Advisory library that was developed for the EMA software. It was available online using the internet hosting, security and distribution controls of the Agricultural Document Library (ADLib) to manage and distribute the library to users.

EMA was developed with the aid of funding from the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), the Milk Development Council (MDC) (now DairyCo) and the Horticultural Development Company (HDC). It won a number of awards including runner up in Government's Science into Practice Awards in 1998; Millennium Product Status in 1999; and in 2001 it was the Overall winner Fruiterers' Company Environmental Awards.

2003-2004: Computerised version of the 4-Point Plan

The 4 Point Plan was originally developed in paper form by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), NFU Scotland, WWF (Scotland), Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). It was intended to provide straightforward information for livestock farmers on how to minimise pollution from farming activities whilst benefiting the farm business and the surrounding environment. It included information on minimising dirty water, better nutrient use, drawing up a simple risk assessment for spreading manure and slurry and guidance on better water margin management. AERU produced an interactive version of the 4 Point Plan, which has been integrated into the EMA software package. This project was supported by SEERAD and SNH.

2003-2004: Nutrient budgeting in the Ythan NVZ

The Ythan Project involved local people in protecting and enhancing the river Ythan. As part of this, AERU developed a whole farm and field level Nutrient Budgeting package for use on-farm. The objective was to produce a computer software package, for use by farmers and their advisers, that would determine the annual farm nutrient budget and provide key information on crop nutrient requirements. The specific aims were to: To calculate the whole farm nutrient (N, P, K) surplus or deficit via the determination of the nutrient value of farm inputs minus the nutrient value of farm outputs in order to demonstrate nutrient recovery efficiency.; To provide a readily accessible means of assessing nutrient requirements for crops grown in the area on a field by field basis and the appropriate period for their application. The system will show the nutrient value of fertilisers and manures; To show the nutrient surplus or deficit after application and post-harvest in order to provide a baseline for the following year; To demonstrate to farmers the nutrient and financial value of manure and to provide information on the most appropriate application timing within the cropping cycle; and to provide a means for farmers to provide evidence that the nutrient policy of the farm is within the guidelines (set by SEERAD) for NVZs, and that closed periods have been observed. The Ythan nutrient budgeting project was supported by the organisation behind the Ythan Project and the European Union.

2002-2002: Environmental auditing of the hardy nursery stock sector

Although quite fragmented, comprising of a few large growers and many smaller enterprises, the hardy nursery stock industry supplies garden centre retailers with an astonishing range of plants and makes a significant contribution to the UK economy. Issues concerning environmental protection and sustainability are usually a concern but can sometimes be given low priority especially when there are other businesses pressures. Managing high product volumes and still maintaining high a quality in terms of product appearance can mean that significant levels of chemical inputs, water and energy are used. It can also mean significant quantities of waste are generated. However, environmental management techniques such as auditing, trend analysis utilising environmental indicators and methods such as risk assessment are not used as often as they should be.

AERU have carried out many projects related to environmental management and auditing within the agricultural and horticultural sectors and have worked with these industries to make auditing and assessment techniques more useable and accessible. One such initiative was to develop an environmental audit and a simple mechanism of support and advice for the hardy nursery stock sector. A simple paper-based checklist and self-assessment type system was developed that was compatible with the EUREP GAP protocols used by the retail sector. This was based around the concepts of Integrated Crop Management but modified such that it would be of particular interest to the hardy nursery stock industry.

2000-2002: Development of an organic conversion planning tool (OrgPlan) (Ref. OF 0159)

AERU and the Institute of Rural Studies at the University of Wales Aberystwyth developed this software, known as OrgPlan, in collaboration with Rothamsted, SAC (The Scottish Agricultural College) and Elm Farm Research Centre. It works on the basis of building conversion scenarios from a number of resources that can be customised by the user. These include a farms database, an enterprise database and a rotation designer. The farms database contains farm details including current cropping, livestock and a farm inventory. The enterprise database contains information on inputs and outputs (economic and nutrient) for agricultural enterprises in conventional, conversion and organic situations. The rotation designer allows the user to develop rotations using the crop enterprises. These rotations are analysed against a set of rules based on the avoidance of nutrient and pest problems. This facilitates the construction rotations that satisfy these rules and are thus are more stable in terms of fertility and pest pressure. The rules include interval between crop types, cropping sequence and the proportion of crop types in the rotation.

Conversion scenarios are created by selecting a farm and an enterprise database and then construct cropping and livestock plans over the scenario duration (up to 15 years), utilising any rotations created in the rotation designer. Additionally, fixed and variable costs are set over the scenario and a farm inventory can also be set over the same period. This inventory can account for any additional investments that are required for conversion. As the scenario is constructed, statistics are graphically displayed for each year of the scenario, for example areas of crops or gross margins. The software also calculates profit & loss and cash flow reports and nutrient and forage budgets for each year. Thus, any potential economic, nutrient or forage problems can be easily identified, and the conversion plan amended to avoid them. Once a viable conversion plan has been created the software provides facilities to print reports or export data to a database or spreadsheet. There is also advisory support in the form of HTML versions of the organic standards and the Organic Farm Management Handbook (produced annually by University of Wales Aberystwyth and Elm Farm Research Centre).

1999-2001: Development of an on-farm risk assessment system for pesticide use

A hazard-based approach was originally taken to the assessment of pesticide use in the EMA software. However, it was recognised that although correct information was being given to the farmer, a risk-based approach would be beneficial and more site specific. The new module directly replaced the old one; but in addition, a new package (p-EMA) was developed, isolating the extensive pesticide information within EMA to produce a stand-alone system specifically for agricultural pesticide use. The key elements of the project being: That the system needed to consider comparability with best practice, regulatory compliance and an eco-toxicology risk assessment for a range of organisms. These included honeybees, earthworms, birds, mammals, and aquatic organisms. An indicator for leachability was also identified for use. For this particular project, operator exposure risk was omitted, and as a result assessing the risk of pesticide residue levels was also be omitted; The methodology developed was based on regulatory risk assessment methods and these were adapted to make them responsive to the local site and farming practices as far as current scientific understanding allows; The previous format, style and user-friendliness of the EMA software was retained; The approach embraced the philosophy of Integrated Pest Management; and The system was based on only easily available farm data - any other data can be accessed from a database provided with EMA. This project was carried out in collaboration with SSLRC and the Central Science Laboratory; and supported by Defra.

1999-2000: Countryside access

It is estimated that there is approximately 1.2 million hectares of rural land in effective recreational use in England and Wales. Until 2000 this included a large amount of land over which the public had access but not by right of way. This generated considerable debate regarding access to the open countryside and the rights of the public to walk freely over open country. In 2000 the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) was introduced and this gave the public free access to mapped areas of mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common land without having to stick to paths. The new rights, for which people have been campaigning for over 100 years, came into effect across all of England on 31 October 2005. Prior to the introduction of CROW, AERU and the University of Hertfordshire worked with many parties to move the debate on. This included working with the Country Landowners & Business Association (CLA). In 1999 the CLA produced a paper-based guide to access assessments that aimed to help identify opportunities for access improvement which satisfied the needs and concerns of the landowner, the public and, wherever possible the local area. This paper-based questionnaire was enhanced and computerised by AERU in collaboration with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and with funding provided by the CLA.

1998-2001: Action for Growth in the Rural Economy (AGRE)

The AGRE project was funded by the European Social Fund and aimed to boost the rural economy of East Hertfordshire by providing a programme of training for businesses in the area. Training included Information Technology (IT) Skills and Business Planning and Development Skills. The partners on the project included East Hertfordshire District Council, Dow Stoker, Hertford Regional College, Hertfordshire Business Link and the University of Hertfordshire. AERU extended the Award Winning EMA software to include a greater degree of economic assessment and also to include components that are specific to the East Hertfordshire District. The software covered many environmental issues including fertiliser and pesticide assessment, energy & water efficiency, waste management and wildlife conservation. Where appropriate the economic benefits of improving environmental performance were highlighted.

1997-1998: Computerisation of the LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) audit & performance monitoring system

This project involved the development of computer software development in two areas: (1) The LEAF Audit - software used by the farmers to complete the audit; and (2) the management and analysis package - software used by LEAF to manage and analyse the returned audits. A prototype of the LEAF audit software was developed by January 1998 and was piloted amongst 20 farmers. It was essentially a digital version of the paper audit with the addition of several computerised documents, similar to those in EMA, to provide a library of advice. So rather than ticking pieces of paper you check boxes on screen, and rather than juggling with several books you simply click through a document or from one document to another. The feedback obtained from pilot was used to improve the software and new version was launched at the end of March 1998. The management and analysis package were developed alongside the LEAF audit software. This package managed the distribution of the LEAF audit software and processes the returned audits that are now in a digital format. The returned audits were analysed individually and collectively. The package automatically collated statistics on the responses to the questions in the audit from the all the returned audits each year. It also generates a performance profile and text report for individual farms, which was been given the name the LEAF Performance Monitor. The performance profile is a graphical representation of the farm's performance in each of the seven audit areas. The scoring system used to produce this profile was developed over a number of months and involved several meetings of a panel of experts to examine each audit and award scores for responses to audit questions. This panel had representatives from LEAF, UH, FRCA, ITE and RAC. This profile allowed performance to be monitored from year to year, thus tracking progress. The text report provided a number of suggestions on how to improve farming practices based on how you responded to the questions in the audit. It was generated from a base of knowledge drawn from various documents including Codes of Good Agricultural Practice, LEAF Documents, and research papers. The statistics collated from the audit returns for each year were presented alongside each suggestion providing a benchmark of the level of adoption of the suggested practice by LEAF farms. The computerisation of the LEAF audit and the development of the management package provided farmers with a valuable management tool. The development of performance assessment process and generation of text report provided feedback that helped identify key areas where improvements can be made. The digitising of the whole process also reduced the amount of paperwork involved and increased the speed at which audits were processed and feedback provided. Much of the work undertaken above formed the foundation of LEAF's current online version of the LEAF audit.


  • Lewis, K.A. & Green. A. (2004). Managing on-farm environmental impact using EMA. Proceedings of Crop Protection in Northern Britain. 24-25 February 2004, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK. Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Scotland, UK.
  • Lewis, K.A. & Tzilivakis, J. (2004). New initiatives for maintaining on-farm environmental protection. In Aspects of Applied Biology 72, Advances in Applied Biology: providing new opportunities for consumers and producers in the 21st century. pp 209-216 AAB centenary 2004. Oxford.
  • Tzilivakis, J., Turley, D.B., Ogilvy, S.E., Lewis, K.A. & Lawson, K. (2004). Assessing the environmental impact of crop protection strategies for integrated farming systems. Agronomie 24, 67-76.
  • Brown, C.D., Hart, A., Lewis, K.A. & Dubus, I.G. (2003). p-EMA (I): simulating the environmental fate of pesticides for a farm-level risk assessment system. Agronomie 23, 67-74.
  • Hart, A., Brown, C.D., Lewis, K.A. & Tzilivakis, J. (2003). p-EMA (II): evaluating ecological risks of pesticides for a farm-level risk assessment system. Agronomie 23, 75-84.
  • Lewis, K.A., Brown, C.D., Hart, A. & Tzilivakis, J. (2003). p-EMA (III): overview and application of a software system designed to assess the environmental risk of agricultural pesticides. Agronomie 23, 85-96.
  • Padel, S., Tzilivakis, J., Measures, M., Stockdale, E. & Watson, C. (2002). Development of software to plan conversion to organic production (OrgPlan). Proceedings of COR Colloquium of Organic Researchers, Aberystwyth, 26-28 March 2002.
  • Lewis, K.A., Tzilivakis, J., Brown, C.D. & Hart, A. (2001). On-farm risk assessment of agricultural pesticides. Proceedings of the Third European Conference of the European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment (vol. 1). June 18-20, 2001, Montpellier, France: 37-41.
  • Tzilivakis, J. & Lewis, K.A. (2001). The development of software to support planning conversion to organic agriculture. Proceedings of the Third European Conference of the European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment (vol. 1). June 18-20, 2001, Montpellier, France: 119-123.
  • Lewis, K.A. & Tzilivakis, J. (2000). The role of the EMA software in integrated crop management and its commercial uptake. Pest Management Science 56, 969-973.
  • Lewis, K.A. (1999). Pesticide environmental performance indicators - pesticide assessment with the EMA II package (Environmental Management for Agriculture) presented at the CAPER conference 18-20 March 1999, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and published in the CAPER Final report by CLM March 1999.
  • Lewis, K.A., Newbold, M.J. & Tzilivakis, J. (1999). Developing an emissions inventory from farm data. Journal of Environmental Management 55, 183-197.
  • Tzilivakis, J. & Lewis, K.A. (1999). Environmental Management for Agriculture (EMA) and Sustainable Agriculture. In Schiefer, G. et al. (Eds.) Perspectives of Modern Information and Communication Systems in Agriculture, Food Production and Environmental Control (Volume A) Proceedings of the Second European Conference of the European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment. September 27-30, 1999, Bonn, Germany: 175-185.
  • Lewis, K.A. & Bardon, K.S. (1998). A computer based informal environmental management system for agriculture. Journal of Environmental Modelling and Software 13, 123-127.
  • Lewis, K.A. & Tzilivakis, J. (1998). Evaluating a technique used to measure environmental performance within agriculture - Case studies. Eco-management and Auditing 5(3), 126-135.
  • Lewis, K.A. Newbold, M.J. & Broom, C.E. (1997). An eco-rating system for optimising pesticide use at farm level: Part 2 evaluation, examples and piloting. Journal of Agricultural Engineering 68, 281-289.
  • Lewis, K.A., Newbold, M.J., Hall, A.M. & Broom, C.E. (1997). An eco-rating system for optimising pesticide use at farm level: Part 1 theory and development. Journal of Agricultural Engineering 68, 275-280.
  • Lewis, K.A., Tzilivakis, J., Skinner, J.A. & Bardon, K.S. (1997). Environmental best practice advisory system for agriculture. EFITA Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 1997.
  • Lewis, K.A., Tzilivakis, J., Skinner, J.A., Finch, J., Kaho, T., Newbold, M.J. & Bardon, K.S. (1997). Scoring and ranking farmland conservation activities to evaluate environmental performance and encourage sustainable farming. Sustainable Development 5(2), 71-78.
  • Newbold, M.J., Lewis, K.A., Tzilivakis, J., Finch, J., Kaho, T., Skinner, J.A. & Bardon, K.S. (1997). The options for informal environmental management: The agricultural industry highlighted. Eco-Management and Auditing4(1), 22-27.
  • Skinner, J.A., Lewis, K.A., Bardon K.S., Tucker, P., Catt, J.A. & Chambers, B.J. (1997). An overview of the environmental impacts of agriculture in the UK. Journal of Environmental Management 50, 111-128.
  • Lewis, K.A., Newbold, M.J. & Bardon, K.S. (1996). A decision support system for environmental management of agriculture: An eco-rating system for pesticide use. Poster Session on Food Sustainability. Conference Proceedings Eco-Informa '96, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, November 1996.
  • Tucker, P., Lewis, K.A. & Skinner, J.A. (1995). Environmental Management in Agriculture: An Expert System Approach. Eco-Management and Auditing Journal 3(1), 9-13.


Dr John Tzilivakis


         Science into Practice Awards  Millennium Product Fruiterers' Company Environmental Awards



University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2020.