Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

Report highlighting environment and rural economy research outputs, and resulting impact, funded through the programme.

Land Use

Scotland has a rich and varied environment and a range of land uses to match, supporting a range of agriculture, recreation and development activities. Deciding best use of the land can be challenging as different uses may not always be compatible with one another. However, not all are mutually exclusive and, increasingly, multiple benefits from land are being sought - when the land is managed to maximise the benefits it provides from more than one standpoint.

Land use research demonstrates how Scotland's environment might respond to changes in climate and land use, and has informed the Scottish Government Land Use Strategy ( LUS), through its work on greenhouse gas ( GHG) emissions from livestock and arable farming systems, peatland restoration and the Scottish Soil Framework.

Peatland Condition and GHG Abatement Potential

Peatlands cover nearly a quarter of Scotland and contain over half of the total carbon in Scottish soils. However, the condition of much of this is degraded or eroded. Better models of the condition of peatland across Scotland have been developed, alongside tools to prioritise sites to be targeted for restoration. While undamaged peatlands can store GHGs, degraded areas will release these gases. SRP researchers have shown that restoring peatland will result in carbon savings, particularly from sites with high emissions. Restoration could therefore aid the land use sector in reducing its GHG emissions alongside numerous biodiversity and other ecosystem service benefits. Analysis of GHG emissions from peatlands has also provided up-to-date approximation of the total emissions from peatlands across Scotland. This has enabled the UK and Scottish Governments to adopt the future use of country-specific calculations in the UK National GHG Inventory. Calculations estimate that by 2050, peatland restoration would significantly contribute to reducing Scotland's contribution to GHG emissions.

Legume Research

129,000 tonnes of nitrogen fertilisers are added to Scottish soils every year. Growing legume crops such as peas, beans and clovers can naturally increase soil nitrogen, preventing the need to use chemical fertilisers, resulting in reduced costs for farmers and reduced GHG emissions. However, many such legume crops can have low or inconsistent yields. Rhizobia are soil bacteria that work with legumes to fix nitrogen. SRP research, in collaboration with industry, is developing a service which will deliver rhizobia for a wide range of soil types. This aims to provide consistent increases to legume crop yield. Trials have shown rhizobial inoculation can increase yields by up to 20%, with associated increases in soil quality and a reduction in the need for inorganic nitrogen fertilisers.


Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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