NFU Comment: Alex Dinsdale on farming’s response to climate change
MAKING the farm businesses of Suffolk more resilient is vital as costs and inflation remain high, credit is harder to come by and consumers’ spending power reduces.
Helping to strengthen the viability and resilience of our members’ businesses is something the NFU takes very seriously.
But making these businesses more resilient to environmental threats is important as well.
The NFU has been working with farmers within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to investigate how to do this as the climate changes and severe weather events are forecast to become more commonplace.
The Futures Landscapes project, which the NFU ran on behalf of the AONB for two years until March, has provided a great deal of data. It includes assessments of the likely impacts of climate change on the protected landscapes, farmland and farm businesses of coastal Suffolk and also information to help these businesses adapt.
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Farming is a key industry to the AONB. The area’s light soils and amenable climate lend themselves to intensive production of high value vegetables. And the activities of farmers in looking after the countryside help strengthen the qualities and characteristics of the landscape, which contributes to making the area so popular with tourists.
Suffolk’s farmers are working hard to ‘sustainably intensify’ their output, or to put it another way, to ‘produce more and impact less’. Farming under increasingly difficult weather conditions, while increasing the level of food production, will become an absolute necessity, as will ensuring that increased production does not harm the environment.
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The scale of the challenges and opportunities facing farmers is summarised in a new Future Landscapes leaflet, due to be published in October.
This will highlight a range of techniques to help farmers adapt their businesses to climate change, many of which not only make sound economic sense but can also provide broader environmental benefits.
The leaflet will be launched at Hall Farm in Wantisden, on October 12. The farm manager, Tim Pratt, has a keen eye on climate change and is experimenting with a variety of novel ways of adapting his business in response.
Options such as improving irrigation efficiency, growing alternative crops or planting trees, using different cultivation regimes to reduce soil moisture loss and farm business diversification are all covered in the leaflet, which will be available from www.suffolkcoastandheaths.org and www.nfuonline.com from 12 October.
: : Alex Dinsdale is countryside adviser for NFU East Anglia and managed the Future Landscapes project.