Adapting Scottish agriculture to a changing climate

Farmers are already experiencing changing weather patterns and extreme events due to climate change and consideration of adaptation actions is very timely.

This report maps the major agricultural activities in Scotland and examines Scotland’s rainfall and temperature projections up to 2030, 2050 and 2100 using UK Climate Projection 18 data, to create a picture of current agricultural activity and future climate.

The study located regions that have a similar climate to what Scotland expects in the future, to identify agricultural products that could be adopted or expanded in Scotland. It also explored published evidence to examine the options for climate change adaptation for farmers in Scotland.

The evidence review identified around 50 adaptation actions suitable for Scottish agriculture that would be feasible in all regions of Scotland before 2030 and are also applicable to 2050 and 2100.

Key findings
  • Scotland is predicted to have wetter and warmer winters and drier and warmer summers, alongside a higher frequency of extreme events.
  • The climatically regions in the world comparable to Scotland are limited to northern Europe, parts of western Canada, southern Alaska, southern Chile and Auckland Island.
  • Relevant cropping activity could be e.g. sugar beet, apples, oats and hops.
  • Livestock are more adaptable than cropping, so it will be more important to adapt management and improve both natural/green and hard infrastructure, such as shade, shelterbelts and buildings, than completely change breeds and/or species.
  • Proposed adaptation actions include adjusting planting and harvesting dates, selecting crop types resilient to extreme weather, and adjusting pasture and soil management practices.
  • Adaptive actions include knowledge transfer and management changes, such as advice provision, early weather warning systems and farmer co-operatives. There are also cross-over actions that support mitigation and adaptation in agriculture and can support biodiversity, such as changes to fertiliser application frequency to improve both inorganic and organic fertiliser use efficiency, improved soil management to better respond to wetter and drier conditions and use of agroforestry.

The report recommends that it is important to act now to increase Scotland’s adaptive capacity, particularly as in the past year Scotland has experienced extreme storms, extreme heat and extended dry periods.

Further details on the findings and a full list of recommendations is available in the report.