British Ag Industry Can Reach Climate Neutrality: Report

British Ag Industry Can Reach Climate Neutrality: Report

Taking advantage of a handful of different techniques to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, and harness renewable energy can make British agriculture a near-carbon-neutral industry, according to a report released by the National Farming Union on Monday.

The report, "Part of the Solution: Climate Change, Agriculture and Land Management," is a joint production of the NFU, the Agricultural Industries Confederation and the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), and aims to show how the agriculture, forestry and land management sectors, working together and with government, can make a significant drop in the GHG emissions in the coming years.

Agriculture currently represents about 7 percent of the U.K.'s carbon emissions, which is notably lower than the 10-12 percent of global emissions due to farming. But in addition to reducing the industry's emissions, the strategy advocated in the groups' report will also increase the number of renewable energy-producing sites on farmlands in the country.

In recent years, emissions from agriculture have slightly decreased in Britain, according to the report's authors. The decline is due largely to a reduction in number of livestock and less nitrogen-based fertilizers in use in the country. But if the industry adopts a few ecologically beneficial practices, it can more significantly decrease its emissions.

Among the recommendations are more focused land-management practices, including yield-increasing measures, minimal-till or no-till farming practices, and more organic manure and straw composting, all of which can increase the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil. Other sustainable farming practices are included in the recommendations, including returning marginally productive lands back to wetlands, peatlands and native vegetation.

"Land managers can make a positive contribution to mitigating the impact of climate change -- through the provision of crops for renewable energy and through carbon storage in trees and soils," said Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, president of the CLA, in a statement. "Our joint report highlights where long-term government commitments are needed to drive these carbon-friendly practices forward and where industry can offer land managers help and guidance."

Overall, the report lays out five priorities for the agriculture and land management sectors:
  • An emphasis on research to add land management sources to the U.K.'s GHG inventory, including soil carbon and N2O balance, reduced or zero tillage systems, and integrated models of whole farming systems;
  • Advocating best practices for increasing nitrogen efficiency from experts in the fertilizer industry, agronomists, animal nutritionists and others;
  • Continuing to raise awareness of energy and carbon accounting, as well as using financial incentives to promote energy efficiency and carbon management by farmers, land owners and foresters through financial incentives;
  • Helping farmers use methane emissions and animal wastes to generate heat and power by way of educational programs, financial supports, and infrasturcture improvements to the electrical grid;
  • Realising the wider potential for the land-based industries to supply renewable energy, whether through waste- and emissions-capture technologies or through planting biofuel stocks as crops.

The full report, "Part of the Solution: Climate Change, Agriculture and Land Management," is available for download from GreenBiz. More information about the groups behind the report is online at