Climate crisis: the countryside could be our greatest ally – if we can reform farming

phys.org | 10/22/2019 | Staff
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Around 20% of the UK's farms account for 80% of the country's total food production, and they do this on about half of all the farmed land there is. At least 80% of farms in the UK don't produce very much at all.

In England, the figures are even starker. Just 7% of farms produce over half of the country's agricultural output—on 30% of its farmland. A little under half (42%) of England's farms produce a meagre 2% of the total agricultural output, working just 8% of the country's total land.

Year - Farming - Livestock - Grazing - Cereal

In an average year, mixed farming, livestock grazing and cereal farms make a financial loss on what they produce, and much of the income on these farms comes from government subsidy. In all these cases, this subsidy forms the majority of income. Livestock farming is the least profitable sector of all while some of the most profitable sectors like horticulture—producing everything from vegetables to soft fruit and tomatoes—receive very little subsidy.

Land is precious, and there are trade offs between designating enough to grow food and reserving it for other vital functions, like natural wilderness for biodiversity, recreation and carbon storage. This is as true in the UK as it is in the rest of the world.

Farmers - Custodians - Land - Wildlife - Evidence

Some farmers argue that they are the custodians of the land and the wildlife that live on it, but much of the evidence suggests that this role is neglected in the UK. Much farmed soil has been drained of its natural nutrients and now relies on artificial inputs like fertiliser. Rather than offering a haven for struggling bird species, it seems little progress has been made in halting declines in wildlife abundance on farmland.

Agriculture is also a major emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for about 10% of total UK emissions. Some estimates suggest that ten "calories"...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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