The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Improvemen­ts to land use and production key

Climate: Challenge for sector to achieve net zero


“Making changes toproducti­on systems will help reduce emissions”

Professor Davy McCracken of SRUC offers an insight into work at the rural college’s hill and mountain research centre

The Scottish Government commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 will have a major impact on future agricultur­al and environmen­tal support policies.

In particular, there will be an even greater emphasis on encouragin­g hill farmers and crofters to improve the costeffect­iveness of their production systems and thereby reduce emissions.

And the range of production-oriented research we are conducting at Kirkton and Auchtertyr­e – from improving soil and grassland management, through increasing livestock performanc­e, to using technology to aid decision-making – is all aimed at understand­ing what may be practical or economical­ly viable to implement.

But we have also been looking at how other types of land management can be integrated into hill farms such as ours.

To this end, we worked closely with the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and Peatland Action a few years ago to restore more than 16km (10 miles) of degraded peat hags along the spine of one of our mountains.

We have also engaged in agri-environmen­t actions – such as creating water margins and wader scrapes in the low ground and implementi­ng a moorland management plan on the hills – through the current Agri-Environmen­t Climate Scheme.

And in addition to planting more than 500 acres of montane woodland in one of our glens 20 years ago, we have also planted a lot more trees alongside waterways and in small shelter belts in the lower parts of the farm in recent years.

Why all this focus on non-agricultur­al management?

Firstly, making changes to production systems will help in reducing emissions from any farm or croft.

But the scale of the overall challenge means that only doing that will be nowhere near enough to help Scotland get to net zero by 2045.

Hence other actions – such a woodland creation and peatland restoratio­n – will be essential to ensure that hill farms and crofts also sequester even more carbon over the coming years.

Secondly – and just as importantl­y – Scotland has been in a biodiversi­ty crisis for just as long, if not longer, than we have been in a climate emergency.

Although actions taken to address climate challenges will also have biodiversi­ty benefits, there will be a continuing need for more targeted actions to assist other wildlife, such as wading birds.

Being seen to address both the climate emergency and biodiversi­ty crisis will be essential if Scotland’s hill farms and crofts are to trade on our green credential­s going forward.

 ??  ?? MAKING CHANGES: SRUC is carrying out research into improving systems at its Kirkton and Auchtertyr­e farms
MAKING CHANGES: SRUC is carrying out research into improving systems at its Kirkton and Auchtertyr­e farms
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