Agricultural transition in Scotland - first steps towards our national policy: consultation analysis

Analysis of the responses received to the Agricultural Transition in Scotland consultation. The consultation was carried out between August 2021 and November 2021.

8. Research and development

Alongside a new strategy for research of the environment, agriculture, and natural resources, the Scottish Government continues to support initiatives to make agricultural research accessible, including, for example, the SEFARI[7] Gateway. This chapter analyses responses about additional research needed to support the agriculture sector.

Q7.1: In light of ongoing research activities supported by the Scottish Government and the 2022-2027 research strategy, are additional measures needed to ensure research is supporting the agriculture sector to meet its climate change targets?

Q7.1: In light of ongoing research activities supported by the Scottish Government and the 2022-2027 research strategy, are additional measures needed to ensure research is supporting the agriculture sector to meet its climate change targets?
Among all (314) Yes No Don't know No answer No. of comments
Number 206 21 70 17 225
% 66% 7% 22% 5%  

Two thirds (66%) agreed additional measures were needed to ensure research supports the agricultural sector to meet its climate change targets. Just under a quarter (25%) were unsure or did not answer; 7% disagreed. Three quarters (74%) of organisations agreed with the need for further research. Almost all who disagreed were individuals.

More research needed

The most prevalent theme in responses was support for more research, which was raised by individuals and most types of organisation. Most did not provide additional detail, but stressed that progress could only be made through research. A few respondents supported increased funding for research projects, particularly those that filled gaps resulting from the loss of EU funding.

"The role of research and development in enabling agricultural businesses to deliver on sustainable food production and climate ambitions cannot be overstated, nor can be the importance of improving knowledge transfer and ensuring research outcomes are applied." – NFU Scotland

High-quality, accessible, and practical research

Some respondents noted the importance of disseminating research to farmers and supporting them to implement research recommendations. While respondents acknowledged the work being done in universities, research centres and by the government, they highlighted a need to close the gap between what researchers know from data and evidence and what is actually being done by farmers.

"There has been a considerable amount of potentially very useful research completed, but it is not clear how the findings of the research have been promoted and used in practice." – Scottish Environmental Protection Agency

The need for clear and accessible communication of research to support farmers to implement new plans and actions was highlighted by some respondents. A few highlighted educational outreach or field demonstrations as important to create change. Similarly, some noted the importance of practical research that farmers could use, specifically highlighting the need for more 'near-market' research.

Others emphasised the importance of ensuring research is unbiased and of high-quality. They recommended distancing research from industry input and commercial investment.

Collaborative and co-designed research projects

Some respondents stressed the importance of collaborative or co-designed research which includes farmers' perspectives and engages with those working in the industry. They argued farmers should be involved in research planning, but also as leaders in the experimentation process. Some felt this could ensure research stays ahead of even the most progressive industry leaders.

Areas where further research is necessary

Many identified areas for further research, presented below by most to least frequency of suggestion:

  • Agroecological farming including circular economy strategies.
  • Carbon sequestration.
  • Biological research e.g. genetic engineering/plant and animal breeding, health of soil, crops and animals, disease control, parasite control.
  • Impacts of climate change including natural flood management, future-proofing agriculture, crop resilience.
  • Biodiversity and conservation research including land management, agrichemical usage, and forest and hedgerows regrowth.
  • Methane inhibitors and feed quality.
  • New technology e.g. low emissions equipment, robotics, composting technology.
  • Geographically based research, considering the differing local challenges faced by farmers throughout the country.
  • Animal health and welfare research including epidemiology and veterinary innovation
  • Supply chain research including downstream value chains, life cycle analyses, consumer demands, and support of local farm staff.
  • Social research e.g. consumer behaviour trends and community-land dynamics.



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