Agriculture and climate change

This page aims to provide useful information and resources for farmers, industry members and stakeholders, to help in understanding the threats and opportunities that come with climate change, as well as further advice on the help available.

Latest news

August 2010: The English farming industry have made a commitment to contribute to the reduction of the UK’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, as outlined in their Action Plan. As part of a package of support to help English farmers meet their emissions target, the Government commissioned AEA to carry out a scoping project to identify existing advisory models and make recommendations on the best way to structure low carbon advice and training to agriculture. The report provides a survey of existing models of agricultural advice and an assessment on their effectiveness, making the recommendation for a tiered approach for structuring delivery of low carbon advice. 

If you require more detailed information on agricultural adaptation and mitigation policy, including the steps the Government is taking to help farmers adapt, please see the relevant chapters of Defra’s Climate Change Plan published on 31 March 2010.

Contents

  1. The issue
  2. Information and help for farmers
  3. Information for stakeholders
  4. Other Documents and Research Resources

1. The issue

The Agriculture, Forestry and Land Management (AFLM) sector is already feeling the impact of climate change and will have a significant part to play both in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to the impacts of a changing climate.

2. Information and help for farmers

How will climate change affect me? The threats and opportunities.

Britain’s farmers will feel the impact of our changing climate very directly, and this can present both threats and opportunities. Some of the opportunities of a changing climate will include: longer growing seasons and reduced frost damage in winter allowing increased yields; potentially reduced heating (energy) costs in some areas e.g. less need to dry of crops; new geographical ranges for crops; and the opportunity to introduce new crops/livestock species. But climate change is likely to pose more threats than opportunities, with impacts such as:

Hotter drier summers and warmer wetter winters

  • Greater variability in yield and quality due to more extreme and variable weather;
  • Changes in suitability of land for producing existing crops;
  • Over-wintering of pests/diseases, leading to larger populations, new types and invasion of previously ‘safe’ areas;
  • Increased heat stress in livestock (and farm workers);
  • Wet and warmer conditions could make livestock feed more susceptible to mould and contamination with impacts on production and food safety;
  • Habitat and ecosystem changes and loss of biodiversity.

More extreme events such as flooding, storms, drought

  • Increased damage from storms and flooding;
  • Increased water scarcity and drought leading to loss of pastures, lack of water for crops and livestock, less water in rivers and groundwater, and increased risk of fire;
  • Increased soil erosion from flooding and drought, loss of carbon from peat soils;
  • Increased water pollution as a result of heavier rainfall and water surges.

Sea level rise

Reduced water supply, salinisation and loss of land, and changes to coastal habitat.

More information

What help is available?

Interest free loans for farmers

English farmers can, from 1 February 2010, apply for unsecured, interest free loans from the Carbon Trust of between £3,000 and £20,000, to upgrade to more energy efficient equipment. The loans, provided over one to four years, are designed to pay for themselves through direct energy savings. Once repaid, farmers will benefit from savings on their energy costs, as well as a reduced carbon footprint.

Farming Futures

Farming Futures is a communication collaboration of industry stakeholders and is currently funded by Defra. It provides inspiration and information on how to prepare your business for the impacts, opportunities, risks and responsibilities that climate change brings.

Bioenergy opportunities

A key contribution from agriculture to tackling climate change will be through bioenergy to replace fossil fuels and growing crops to replace fossil fuel feedstocks in other products.

Further information and contacts are available for farmers on non-food and energy crops. Defra supports the growing of these crops through the Energy Crops Scheme.

3. Information for stakeholders

Rural Climate Change Forum

The Rural Climate Change Forum (RCCF) provides a high level forum for dialogue with Government, and authoritative advice and leadership for rural stakeholders, on climate change and rural land management.

Anaerobic digestion

A developing opportunity for farmers is biogas production from anaerobic digestion. This is a well-proven technology, but under-utilised in the UK. It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing methane from organic wastes including manures and slurries.

4. Other documents and research resources

Defra continues to research impacts and adaptation issues, and proposed and in progress projects are available on Defra ’s science site or are listed below.

Page last modified: 12 August 2010
Page published: 1 July 2006