Well, here we are – 2021!  Who knows what this year has in store but it will, without doubt, be another year of adaptation and change moving forward.  Having left the EU, and with changes to rules for all of us, the topic of climate change is at the top of the agenda and affects all we do whether it is food and farming, to the proposed phasing out of Diesel cars.

Undoubtedly climate change will affect farming in the future, and farmers need to act to be part of the response to this challenge.  The Agriculture Bill, Environment Bill and National Food Strategy (part 2) form part of the Government response, but technology needs to be augmented by more biodiverse solutions to enable farming to adapt to change.

At a recent meeting of the Farmers Club/British Crop Production Council it was suggested de-carbonising whilst using nature-based solutions that promote biodiversity could, for example, be achieved by farmers planting trees alongside their fields, which would utilise carbon as well as helping with flood management, soil stability and recreation, strengthening more diverse and resilient farming.

The Environmental Land Management scheme would underpin agricultural policy by paying farmers to reduce production of greenhouse gases and sequester carbon, which farming is in a strong position to do.  Productivity needs to be improved using better plant and animal genetics and better farming techniques utilising more energy efficient equipment and machinery.  This would help to produce more food whilst achieving climate and environmental goals as well as sustaining the farming business.  Forward thinking farms have already installed renewable energy systems such as anaerobic digesters, solar and wind power.  There are opportunities to expand these initiatives.

Currently horticulture leads the way, accounting for around 25% of UK plant based agriculture using only 3% of the country’s land.  It was said that “Sustainable intensification frees up land to lock up carbon, cut flood risk and create habitats.”  Systems need to be reviewed and adapted to identify efficiency gains and smarter ways of working.

The Council identified the importance of identifying plants and crops that are hardy enough to withstand a warmer climate, as well as more variable weather fluctuations including more winter rain, but less summer rain, flooding and fewer frosts.

Conversely, longer summers could extend the growing season bringing benefits especially to horticulture and soft fruit producers and in additional the grass growing season may be extended.  Improved plant varieties could be achieved using plants from warmer climates in conjunction with domestic favourites.  To conclude, the NFU Climate Change Adviser Dr Ceris Jones said, ‘Boosting productivity and reducing emissions is the most important pillar – benefiting the farm business and the planet.’

Similarly to my article from last month, regarding potential housing requirements on dairy farms, now is the time where I think we could all benefit from reviewing what we do in all lines of business.  From a planning perspective sustainability is the “golden” thread through the National Planning Policy Framework and policy seeks to enhance renewable energy use, water management and place housing in the right place.  Valuation wise – sustainability and energy usage is creeping into valuations with more purchasers and occupiers being conscious of both running costs and use of resources.

Wishing you all the best for 2021!