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Plea for more support for farmers affected by extreme weather

WWF Scotland said the impact of climate change can no longer be ignored after 2018 saw a drop in crop yields.

WWF Scotland is calling for more support for farmers (Andrew Milligan/PA)
WWF Scotland is calling for more support for farmers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland’s farmers need more Government support if they are to adapt to the challenges of climate change, campaigners say.

WWF Scotland said crops were directly affected by extreme weather in 2018, with the late spring and unusually hot and dry summer leading to a drop in the amount of cereals and oilseeds planted.

Production of winter barley was down 24% and spring barley, used to make whisky, experienced a 6% fall in yield, according to the environmental group. Yield of wheat also fell by 16%.

A drop in the availability of animal fodder is said to have impacted on the country’s hill farmers.

We can no longer think about climate change as a problem other people are experiencing many miles away WWF Scotland

Highland crofter Lynn Cassells said: “In the space of a year we experienced a period of extreme wet, followed by months of snow cover and then a long, hot summer where our water supply ran dry.

“This made our day-to-day farm operations very inconsistent as we faced new challenges prioritising our work and financial outlay.

“With climate change something we are now experiencing directly, our farm business model for the future must be based on long-term resilience.”

Ms Cassells said actions to mitigate the effects of extreme weather include integrated land use with more tree cover, and improved water and soil management.

Sheila George, WWF Scotland’s food and environment policy manager, said: “We can no longer think about climate change as a problem other people are experiencing many miles away – it is happening right now in front of our eyes at home.

“That’s why we believe there’s an urgent need for greater leadership and support from the Scottish Government to help farmers adapt and build resilience to climate change impacts in the face of increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather.”

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Crop suffered in 2018 due to a late spring and hot, dry summer (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Agriculture is a source of greenhouse gas emissions, and NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said farmers and crofters have an important role to play in tackling climate change, with the necessary Government support.

He said: “Reducing emissions in farming will not be easy or immediate.

“It will depend on new innovation and the application of the latest science and on achieving widespread change in practices in an industry made up of thousands of small businesses.

“The Government will therefore have a key role in facilitating and supporting the industry in its efforts to reduce emissions.

“The Scottish Government puts great emphasis on leading the way in tackling climate change and it does already fund activity to help reduce emissions from farming, but there is so much more that it could do to work with and help Scotland’s farmers reduce emissions.”

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