Integrating nature into farming

Ellie Brodie, author of a new report on how the Scottish Government must step up to help farmers integrate nature with food production to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss shares her thoughts on what action is required.

Farming holds a vital place in Scotland’s culture, history and economy. Yet farmers, crofters and land managers are at the forefront of threats on multiple fronts, from climate change and the loss of biodiversity to global political and economic volatility.

These crises have wide-ranging impacts for them, from failed crops and stressed livestock to prohibitive fertiliser costs. In Scotland, agriculture is the sector with the second highest greenhouse gas emissions.

These threats look set to remain and worsen without urgent and decisive action.

Flower rich meadow
Hay meadow © Lee Schofield

The Scottish Government needs to urgently match actions with rhetoric on net zero and nature restoration. They need solutions, and affordable ones at that. New approaches to integrating and delivering policy on land are desperately needed. The new report, The potential for nature-based solutions in Scottish agriculture, speaks to this need.

Taking a nature-based approach is, as the report argues, an essential weapon in responding to the warming planet and freefall in biodiversity. Nature-based solutions within fields, between farms and across whole landscapes, can help us – giving a win for farming businesses by buffering them against the volatility of changing global markets and the changing climate, whilst also helping tackle nature loss and climate warming, often at a fraction of the cost of human-made ‘solutions’ involving machinery, concrete and chemicals.

Barley straw being baled with a bailer and tractor © Jed Owen

Based on interviews with experts across farming, policy, finance and the environment, our report shows how those managing Scotland’s land can unlock solutions for the climate and nature crises at the same time as producing high-quality food. But that a paradigm shift is needed – a shift away from business-as-usual food production and towards the integration of nature across all Scotland’s farmland.

The Scottish Government has set out a Vision for Agriculture which aims to see Scotland leading the way in regenerative and sustainable food production. Our report argues that the delivery programme for this Vision urgently needs to pick up pace and be matched with a budget to integrate nature across all farming systems at the scale needed to meet the Scottish Government’s own targets for net zero and biodiversity recovery. It needs to commit to the research, skills development and advisory service that can support land managers safely integrate nature into their farming system.

Wildflower meadow ©James Adler

We hope the findings and recommendations it contains will be useful for everyone who wants to see a viable future for Scotland’s farmers, crofters and land managers, that compliments a thriving and resilient natural world.

Read the summary report and full report.
Read the news story.
Find out more about nature-based solutions.

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Ellie Brodie, author of a new report on how the Scottish Government must step up to help farmers integrate nature with food production to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss …

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