Technical note Open Access
The Scottish Government’s ambition to address climate and biodiversity emergencies require urgent decisions to be made on replacement agricultural policies, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Agroecology is one nature-based farming approach which, if adopted widely in Scotland, may enable farms to contribute to both these climate and biodiversity targets. To know how best to support the adoption of agroecological practices we must first understand the current level of use.
This briefing note outlines the results of a survey of Scottish farmers on agroecological practices. It is part of an EU Horizon 2020 project so compares Scottish adoption with a concurrent sample of EU farmers. It highlights which practices Scottish farmers promote within their farming systems and where there is scope to do more relative to their EU counterparts. This allows us to understand the potential for a transition to a more agroecological system and start to identify barriers and opportunities for adoption of these approaches in Scottish farming.
We find that Scottish livestock farms lag behind their EU counterparts in our sample in terms of overall adoption of agroecological practices. Only in relation to stocking density criteria did Scottish farms outperform their EU counterparts. On the other hand, the overall adoption of agroecological practices on Scottish crop farms is in line with EU counterparts. In fact, their adoption of agroecological tillage, fertilisation, pest and weed management practices is slightly ahead of the EU in our sample. The uptake of integrated weed management practices was particularly high in the Scottish farms surveyed. Areas for improvement include increasing plant diversity and rotation as well as cover cropping.
Overall, we see several opportunities for Scottish livestock farmers to adopt agroecological practices that could help contribute to climate and biodiversity goals if they are properly supported. These are opportunities that appear to have been taken by EU counterparts and could be promising quick wins for Scotland. We also see that Scottish crop farmers have been successful in adopting several agroecological approaches. There is an opportunity here to learn what has driven adoption in this group and how learning can be transferred to the livestock sector.