Reducing greenhouse gases in agriculture

31 May 2022

Its still some way to go for the Agricultural sector

Defra produce a huge number of reports and surveys during the course of the year. One such survey of interest, was published on 26th May, detailing the actions being taken by a sample of farms for “greenhouse gas mitigation”.

On the face of it, the figures are reasonably encouraging from an environmental perspective. The report finds, for example that:

  • 54% of holdings have a nutrient management plan.
  • 8.3% of farmers process waste by anaerobic digestion.
  • 58% of farmers are currently taking action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 78% of holdings spread manure or slurry on grass or arable land.
  • 73% of livestock farmers have a Farm Health Plan, and the same percentage are using clover mixes on temporary grassland.
  • 67% of holdings with livestock use a ration formulation programme or nutritional advice.

On the other hand, 72% of units are still storing manure in temporary heaps (although 21% have plans to change this in the future)

Moreover, although the figures look quite positive at first sight, most of the areas surveyed showed a deterioration in their position since the 2021 survey and in many cases, very little change since such surveys began. The proportion of farms with a nutrient management plan has dropped from 61% in 2012 to 54% in 2022.

Statistics are, of course, only as reliable as the information which is processed through them. The survey is based on a sample of approximately 1650 responses from 6876 farms, all of which were invited to reply from an overall population of 56,747. As such the variance from year to year may not be particularly significant, but one can probably conclude that no massive changes are currently taking place. One could also take the view that those who chose to respond voluntarily to this survey are among the more progressive units, and as such will probably tend to exaggerate the level of greenhouse gas measures in place rather than understate it.

Commenting on the report, Agriculture & Rural Business Partner Joe Spencer said

“This survey would seem to indicate that there is still some way to go in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms. There seems to have been little movement in the proportion of farms adopting “green” measures, and because of the voluntary nature of the survey and the relatively poor response rate, the findings may well show practices being adopted by the best farms rather than the average”.

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