An NFU commitment to reach net zero emissions in agriculture by 2040 has received a mixed reaction from industry, writes Ruth Wills.
While net zero farming is a noble aspiration, some of the practical measures farmers could undertake to help meet this goal were highlighted at an event held at Duchy Home Farm, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, on July 5.
Farmers joined politicians at the meeting, organised by Gloucestershire NFU, to find out how they could help deliver the NFU’s aims.
Dr Ceris Jones, climate change policy adviser at the NFU, said: “Farming is more affected on climate change than any other sector in the economy.
“So it is absolutely right we step up and play our part in tackling the causes and providing solutions.”
There were four key points for farmers highlighted at the meeting:
1 Fine-tune management: Farmers do not always need to make big changes – it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with minor tweaks, said Dr Jones.
“Fine-tuning the way farmers manage their livestock, nutrients, energy and soil helps reduce emissions, but is also good for the farm business. Tackling productivity is core to farming businesses.
“Healthier livestock, reducing days to slaughter, nutrient management planning, precision farming; all these things contribute.”
2 Store carbon: Storing carbon can balance out the carbon produced by the industry.
Dr Jones said: “The way you manage your land, for example, storing carbon in soils, hedges and trees, no other sector can do that.”
“We rely on plants to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Might there be something in making some hedges 20 per cent bigger? It may be one of the options.”
3 Boost land-based renewable energy: Agriculture occupies 70 per cent of the UK land area and farmers can capture natural resources.
“Solar, wind and bio-energy help decarbonise our own businesses and contribute to the rest of the economy,” said Dr Jones.
4 A balanced rotation: Permanent grassland is a valuable carbon store which needs both managing and recognising.
Dr Jones said: “Arable land is a carbon source, grassland is a carbon store and forestry is the biggest store, so we are particularly interested in how permanent grassland might be valued in the new Environmental Land Management Scheme.”
What Duchy Home Farm manager David Jones is doing to reach zero emissions