Dr Laurence Graham Smith


Current activity and research interests

Laurence’s interdisciplinary research focuses on three cross-cutting themes: the Impacts of Upscaling Farming Systems; Holistic Sustainability Assessment; and Behaviour change in Food Systems. Laurence has led and co-led projects and work packages for a range of Government bodies and companies within Europe including Defra and the Devolved Administration Governments, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE-JPI), the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, the Ekhaga Foundation and the Sustainable Food Trust.

Laurence has worked extensively on assessing the sustainability impacts of upscaling food and farming systems fusing diverse indicators and multi-disciplinary tools to develop novel methodologies revealing the trade-offs between a range of sustainability criteria. For example Laurence recently combined farm-scale nitrogen modelling with land-use optimisation modelling to explore the production impacts of a 100% conversion to organic farming. Results from Laurence’s work within the UK and Devolved Administration funded Greenhouse Gas Platform have helped to inform the development of policy guidance documents on the topic of greenhouse gas mitigation and the development of research topics within the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.

Currently Laurence is investigating the environmental and agronomic impacts of agroforestry systems - working with farmers and industry to deliver useful decision support systems for the optimisation of environmental performance within the SustainFARM project, funded by Defra in the UK as part of the FACCE SURPLUS ERA-NET. A multi-criteria ‘Public Goods’ assessment tool which Laurence co-ordinated the development of, provides the underpinning methodological framework for this work (see Gerrard, C.L., Smith, L.G. et al. (2012): Public goods and farming. In: Farming for food and water security, for details of the Public Goods Tool. See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZJLii5yd58 for an overview of this work). The Public Goods Tool also provides a methodological framework for assessing the sustainability of the Sheep and Goat Sector in Europe as part of the Horizon 2020 project iSAGE.

Laurence’s third theme, Behaviour Change, is an acknowledgement that understanding people’s values and their behaviour is fundamental to achieving sustainable farming and nutrition. Laurence is currently involved in a UKRI / Global Food Security Programme funded project SEEGSLIP which is helping to identify key leverage points for transition to sustainable production in grassland farming systems within the UK.

Over the next five years Laurence aims to expand his research activity to better understand the links between sustainable production and healthy consumption and the potential trade-offs between multiple ecosystem services. Laurence is keen to engage in primary research and student supervision at the RAU and he currently leads Dissertation, Applied Project and Research Skills modules within the new Catalyst Programme. Beyond academic research Laurence is keen to provide input to policy decision through workshops and 1-2-1 interactions at national and international levels.

Membership of professional bodies and additional information

  • Member, Defra Environmental Land Management (ELM) Advisory Group.
  • Member, All Party Parliamentary Group on Renewable and Sustainable Energy
  • Member, Round Table for Organic Agriculture and Climate Change
  • Member, Greenhouse Gas Action Plan for England Steering Group.
  • Trustee of Biodynamic Agricultural College (http://www.bdacollege.org.uk/)
  • Selected reviewer for the journals Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Open Agriculture, Organic Agriculture and the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR)


Research areas

  • The Impacts of Upscaling Farming Systems
  • Holistic Sustainability Assessment
  • Behaviour change in Food Systems


Module leader

  • Dissertation (4414 Catalyst project, 45 credits, L7)
  • Applied Project (4414 Catalyst project, 45 credits, L7)
  • Research Skills (4413, Catalyst project, 15 credits, L7)


Selected peer reviewed journal articles

  • Smith, L.G., Kirk, G.J.D., Jones, P.J., Williams, A.G. (2019): The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods. Nature Communications 10, Article No. 4641
  • Knudsen, M.T., Dorca-Preda, T., Djomo, S.N., Peña, N., Padel, S., Smith, L.G., Zollitsch, W., Hörtenhuber, S., Hermansen, J.E. (2019): The importance of including soil carbon changes, ecotoxicity and biodiversity impacts in environmental life cycle assessments of organic and conventional milk in Western Europe. Journal of Cleaner Production 215, 433-443.
  • Dicks, L.V., Rose, D.C., Ang, F., Aston, S., Birch, A.N.E., Boatman, N., Bowles, E.L., Chadwick, D., Dinsdale, A., Durham, S., Elliott, J., Firbank, L., Humphreys, S., Jarvis, P., Jones, D., Kindred, D., Knight, S.M., Lee, M.R.F., Leifert, C., Lobley, M., Matthews, K., Midmer, A., Moore, M., Morris, C., Mortimer, S., Murray, T.C., Norman, K., Ramsden, S., Roberts, D., Smith, L.G., Soffe, R., Stoate, C., Taylor, B., Tinker, D., Topliff, M., Wallace, J., Williams, P., Wilson, P., Winter, M., Sutherland, W.J. (2019): What agricultural practices are most likely to deliver “sustainable intensification” in the UK? Food and Energy Security 8, e00148.
  • Smith, L.G., Jones, P., Kirk, G., Pearce, B., Williams, A.G. (2018): Modelling the impact of a widespread conversion to organic agriculture in England and Wales. Land Use Policy, 76: 391-404.
  • Smith, L.G., Tarsitano, D., Topp, C. F. E., Jones, S.K., Gerrard, C.L., Pearce, B.D., Williams, A.G., Watson, C.A. (2016): Predicting the effect of rotation design on N, P, K balances on organic farms using the NDICEA model. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 31: 471-484.
  • Smith, L.G., Williams, A.G., Pearce, B.D. (2015): The energy efficiency of organic agriculture: a review. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 30: 280-301.
  • Hietala, S., Smith, L.G., Knudsen, M., Kurppa, S., Padel, S., Hermansen, J. (2015): Carbon footprints of organic dairying in six European countries — real farm data analysis. Organic Agriculture 5(2): 91-100.
  • Markussen, M.V., Kulak, M., Smith, L.G., Nemecek, T., Østergård, H. (2014): Evaluating the Sustainability of a Small-Scale Low-Input Organic Vegetable Supply System in the United Kingdom. Sustainability 6, no. 4: 1913-1945.
  • Gerrard, C., Janssen, M., Smith, L.G., Hamm, U., Padel, S. (2013): UK consumer reactions to organic certification logos. British Food Journal 115, 727-742.

Book chapters

  • Smith, L.G., Williams, A.G. (2019): Towards improved greenhouse gas mitigation and energy efficiency in organic livestock farming. In: Improving organic animal farming (Eds. Mette Vaarst and Stephen Roderick). Cambridge: Burleigh Dodds.
  • Smith, L.G., Lampkin, N.L. (2018): Greener farming: Managing carbon and nitrogen cycles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. In: Managing Global Warming (Ed. Trevor Letcher). London: Elsevier.
  • Lampkin, N.H., Smith, J., Smith, L.G. (2017): Agroecology and Organic Farming as Approaches to Reducing the Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Chemicals. In: Agricultural Chemicals and the Environment (Eds. RE Hester, RM Harrison). Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. 

Selected conference proceedings

  • Smith, L.G., Arguile, L., Noble, N., Norton, L.R. (2018): The design and application of the public goods tool: an evaluation framework for the development of sustainable farming systems. SRUC Land Use Conference. Edinburgh, 28-30 November 2018. Presentation summary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZJLii5yd58
  • Smith, L.G., Jones, P.J., Pearce, B.D., Williams, A.G. (2017): Assessing the production impacts of a large-scale conversion to organic farming in England and Wales. In: Rahmann, G (ed.) Proceedings of the 19th Organic World Congress, New Dehli, India, November 9-11, 2017. Organized by ISOFAR/OFAI/TIPI
  • Smith, L.G., Goglio, P., Williams, A.G. (2016): Energy efficiency in organic farming systems. LCA Food Conference 2016, UCD, Dublin, 19-21st October 2016.
  • Smith, L.G., Padel, S., Schader, S., Gerrard, C.L., Pearce, B.D., Baumgart, L. (2015): Sustainability Assessment and Monitoring in Organic Agriculture: state of the art and potential future developments. In: Rahmann, G. (eds.) ISOFAR Organic 3.0 Scientific Symposium ‘Innovation with Research’ Goesan County, South Korea.
  • Smith, L.G., Tarsitano, D., Topp, C.F.E., Jones, S.K., Gerrard, C.L., Pearce, B.D., Williams, A.G. (2015): Assessing the influence of rotation design on the N, P, K balance of organic cropping systems. Aspects of Applied Biology: Valuing long-term sites and experiments for agriculture and ecology 128: 157-164.
  • Smith, L.G., Tarsitano D., Topp C.F.E., Jones S.K., Gerrard C.L, Pearce B.D, Williams, A.G., Kirk G, Watson, C. (2015): Assessing the Nitrogen Balance of Organic farms using the NDICEA model. In: Baggs, E (ed.) Proceedings of the BSSS 2015 Annual Meeting: Celebrating a New Era for Soil Science, 26th November 2015.
  • Smith, L.G., Williams, A.G., Pearce, B.D. (2013): Energy use in organic farming. Tyndall Centre’s Climate Transitions Conference, Cardiff University 4-5th April 2013. 

Selected reports

  • Smith, L.G., Orsini S., Mullender S., Midmer A., Alford J., Egan J., Leake A., Woolford A., Jacobs S., Kerr R., Bowles L., Watson C., Pearce B., Lampkin N., Padel S. (2019): Reviewing Opportunities, Barriers and Constraints for Organic Management Techniques to Improve Sustainability of Conventional Farming. Report to Defra on project OF03101.
  • Mullender, S., Smith, L.G., Padel, S. (2018): Sustainability Metrics – the need for convergence. Sustainable Food Trust report, Bristol.
  • Lampkin N., Pearce B., Leake A.R., Creissen H., Gerrard C., Girling R., Lloyd S., Padel S. Smith J., Smith L.G., Vieweger A, Wolfe MS (2015): The role of agroecology in sustainable intensification. Report for the Land Use Policy Group. Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
  • Smith, L.G., Gerrard, C.L., Padel, S., Pearce, B. (2014): Testing the Sustainability of Organic Crop Yields and Rotations. Report to Defra on project OF03100.
  • Smith, L.G., Little, T., (2013): Carbon Footprinting for Farm Businesses. Report for Welsh Government, produced as part of Better Organic Business Links project.
  • Gerrard, C.L., Smith, L.G., Padel, S., Pearce, B., Hitchings, R., Measures, M., Cooper, N., (2011): OCIS Public Goods Tool Development, Report to Defra.