Results from the Scottish Agricultural Census: Module June 2023

This report provides final results from the 2023 June Agricultural Census module covering: soil cover, tillage, irrigation, nutrient management, and fertiliser application and storage. 

Key points

The information collected through this module cover several important areas and show how the agricultural sector plays a significant part to reduce emissions and improve nutrient management. For example, maintaining soil cover over winter and reduced tillage methods can reduce soil erosion, while the type of manure/slurry spreading technique used can reduce emissions.

  • Maintaining soil cover over winter can reduce soil erosion and runoff compared with no soil cover - Autumn and winter crops account for the largest proportion of soil cover over winter (45%), in terms of the area of land under soil cover. Cover crops account for 5% of soil cover and bare soil (no soil cover) account for 11%.
  • Reduced tillage methods can reduce soil erosion - Holdings regularly use more than one type of tillage. Inversion tillage is reported to be used on 89% of holdings, while reduced tillage is used on 23% of holdings (a holding could report more than one type of tillage method).
  • Soil testing can support more effective nutrient management - For those respondents with cropland, 65% report soil testing on their cropland in the last five years. Of holdings who stated that they performed soil testing on their cropland, almost all (93%), report changing their crop nutrient application.
  • The type of manure/slurry spreading technique used can reduce emissions - The most commonly used techniques for spreading manure are broadcast spreading with manure not ploughed in (on average 43% of manure spread based on respondents estimates), and broadcast spreading with ploughing after 4 hours (30%). Broadcast spreading can lead to increased ammonia loss while precision spreading techniques, such as band spreading, can reduce ammonia emissions. Precision techniques on average account for 9% (trailing hose) and 4% (trailing shoe) of manure spread.
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