Publication - Independent report

Arable Climate Change Group - a new blueprint for Scotland's arable sector: report

Published: 21 Jul 2021

Report from the Arable Climate Change Group, one of the farmer-led groups established to develop advice and proposals for the Scottish Government. It focusses on how to cut emissions and tackle climate change, something that was re-emphasised in the updated Climate Change Plan.

Arable Climate Change Group - a new blueprint for Scotland's arable sector: report
Annex 3 – Practical measures

Annex 3 – Practical measures

This Annex sets out the practical measures and principles that have come forward from the ACCG Call for Evidence. The measures have been grouped according to their relevance to the Scottish Government Climate Change Plan outcomes. The rationale for this approach is that if future support is to be driven by climate change mitigation and environmental conditionality, we must make clear how each measure contributes to the outcomes the industry has been tasked with delivering. The diagram below outlines our recommended tiered approach to implementation.

The Tier 1 Climate Smart baseline scheme requirements recommended by the ACCG consist of the need to complete a whole farm - carbon audit, nutrient management plan, soil management plan and biodiversity map. An industry wide uptake of these practices will allow us to accurately map progress and provide the first steps to an Integrated Farm Management approach to tackling climate change mitigation.

Figure 5: Three-tiered system

Diagram outlining a tiered approach to implementation of the recommendations of the Arable CC Group

Our recommendation is that the next delivery phase include additional measures designed to build on the main baseline, clearly demonstrating their contribution at a whole farm level, through the Climate Smart Farm Plan. The key findings of the group point to the following as the headline actions most likely to impact mitigation:

  • Increasing production efficiency with sustainable intensification that increments production through a more efficient use of inputs;
  • Reducing emissions by optimising nitrogen fertilisation (e.g. amount, timing, precision technologies), and the efficient use of agrochemicals and water;
  • Producing and saving energy while increasing the energy efficiency of machines used, as well as installation of power plants from renewable sources;
  • Carbon sequestration from the atmosphere through agricultural practices that preserve soil fertility and increase organic matter content (e.g. regenerative agriculture) targeted farm woodland, agro-forestry and hedgerow planting and management.

Climate Change Plan Outcomes and associated measures

The Climate Change Plan includes 6 outcomes, 4 of which are particularly relevant to the arable sector; these have been listed below (Table 2). The individual outcome is then supported by principles and measures that have come forward from the ACCG call for evidence. Some of these changes are considered to be mitigation factors that will directly reduce emissions; others are 'enabling' and will support implementation of the direct mitigations.

Table 2: Climate Change Plan outcomes relevant to the arable sector
CCP Outcome Measure Enabling or Mitigation
1 A baseline scheme requirement for the completion of a Whole Farm Carbon Audit & Nutrient Management Plan, taking into account all sequestration within the business. Enabling
1 To establish a baseline, mandatory soil testing (possibly including organic matter) will be a scheme requirement, allowing for progression towards a soil management plan at individual farm level. It will be important that soil testing is done in a standardised format by individual testing providers, and that capacity exists for industry wide testing. Enabling
1 Support and training relating to carbon auditing, nutrient management planning, biodiversity mapping and other data collection measures. Enabling
1 Maintaining and preventing loss and damage to existing habitats considered to be of biodiversity or wider environmental value, such as hedgerows, field margins, areas of species rich grassland. Mitigation
1 Farm waste management plans/energy usage to be incorporated into whole farm carbon audit. Enabling
1 Capital grants for on-farm technology to reduce energy usage, for example grain dryers Mitigation
1 Support for the introduction of Integrated Pest Management plans, to reduce agro-chemical usage and support enhanced biodiversity. Mitigation
1 Support for increased areas of buffer strips/wildflower field margins/green manures, beyond existing greening requirements. Mitigation
1 Support to encourage greater efficiency in energy usage and climate control, including efficient refrigeration, improved refrigeration systems, improved thermal insulation in stores, rapid shut doors for cold stores Mitigation
1 Capital investment support to encourage efficient water usage and improved water treatment, including: water harvesting from roofs (to fill sprayers), construction of bio-beds for sprayer washout, waste water treatment, filtration and recycling systems, new water pumps to upgrade older inefficient pumps, irrigation monitoring equipment and rigs to make irrigation more efficient, electrical controls to maximise efficiency of variable load pumps, e.g. in irrigation, creation of boreholes, creation of irrigation lagoons. Mitigation
1 Support to increase the uptake of trickle and drip irrigation. Mitigation
1 Support introduction of grass/clover leys into rotations, including for biomass/industrial use. Mitigation
1 Capital support for small scale renewable energy projects. Mitigation
1 Capital investment support for the purchase of in-field meters e.g. chlorophyll meters, sap meters. Mitigation
1 Automatic climate monitoring and control of poly-tunnels Mitigation
1 Electric transport to move produce from field. Mitigation
1 Weather stations to aid decision making. Enabling
2 Support research into plant development and breeding targeting lower input goals, linked to farm level trials and a requirement for knowledge transfer to change on-farm management practice. Mitigation
2 Support for farmer-led collaborative initiatives, building on the example of the Rural Innovation Support Service. Enabling
2 Support for investigating the adoption of a supply chain approach to carbon auditing, led by farmer co-operatives through the work of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society and others. Enabling
2 Support for the promotion of and establishment of Producer Organisations and other forms of cooperatives, building on examples of best practice Enabling
2 Support to encourage farm level trials of novel crops and other innovations in partnership with research institutes. Mitigation
2 The development of a Scottish Agriculture PLC approach to carbon credits, trading and offsetting, with a view to protecting the value creation at farm level and enhancing the GVA contribution. Enabling
2 Develop the green market/add value by demonstrating to consumers and retailers the environmental credentials of Scottish production Enabling
3 Incentives for the inclusion of pulses and legumes as part of a mixed rotation to reduce inorganic fertiliser use (with consideration given to a strategy for new market creation and processing requirements/investment). Include research into limitations to legume uptake in Scotland. Mitigation
3 Capital support to increase the use of precision application technology, smart sensors (Smart Rural) and crop yield prediction tools to assist decision making that ultimately results in reduced waste, and lower GHG emissions from inorganic fertiliser applications and other outputs. Mitigation
3 Support for participation in innovative use of drone and robot technology in precision application to reduce GHG emissions from inorganic fertiliser applications and other inputs. Mitigation
3 Support for the use of nitrogen inhibitors/slow release fertiliser (provided evidence change demonstrates no negative influence on soil microbiota) Mitigation
3 Support for soil testing and mapping in relation to more efficient lime application, including capital support for variable rate spreading technology Mitigation
3 Support for nutrient testing of farm manures intended for arable application Mitigation
3 Support for the incorporation of livestock grazing, as part of an IFM plan demonstrating a reduced inorganic fertiliser usage, including capital support for livestock infrastructure such as fencing. Mitigation
3 Capital support for collaborative machinery initiatives, to allow for more efficient working that results in more opportunity for early crop establishment and therefore increased ability to incorporate cover cropping and intercropping. Mitigation
6 Support for the introduction of agroforestry and its continued management. Mitigation
6 Support for the testing and continued monitoring of soil structure, based on a managed rotational crop plan Enabling
6 Encourage the return of straw as organic matter to the soil including as farmyard manure. Mitigation
6 Support peatland and wetland restoration. Mitigation
6 Reduce peat usage in horticulture. Mitigation
6 Support improved soil health/organic matter through the requirement to establish soil cover at particular times of the year, particularly over winter Mitigation
6 Support minimising soil disturbance through the practice of minimal, zero tillage or rotational inversion tillage. Mitigation
6 Consider capital incentives for improving in-field drainage, with the aim of improving soil condition as part of a plan. Mitigation
6 Promote increased rotation length for all break crops and recommend best practice minimums for crops including legumes, potatoes and vegetable crops. Mitigation
6 Support for increased tree and hedge planting where appropriate. Mitigation