An independent inquiry founded by National Farmers Union Scotland and Nourish Scotland says Scotland could reduce on-farm greenhouse emissions from 7.5 to 5.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2032.
Their Farming for 1.5 report says a 55 per cent reduction in emissions is possible by 2045, which will involve fully decarbonising farm machinery in the 2030s.
It proposes a methane reduction of 25 per cent by 2032 “through a combination of better animal health, improved genetics, early adoption of feed additives and better management of manures.
“By 2045 a reduction of 50 per cent on current levels is possible through low methane breeding and widespread adoption of feed additives.”
It proposes a reduction in nitrous oxide of 25 per cent by 2032 “through more efficient use of bagged nitrogen, manures and slurries, increasing the use of legumes and reducing nitrogen use while large areas of land are farmed for nature.
“Nutrient budgeting, yield mapping, crop monitoring, controlled release fertilisers and variable rate application all contribute to nitrogen use efficiency.
“Further uptake of these measures result in a cumulative reduction of 50 per cent in nitrous oxide emissions by 2045.”
“Food production is a major global driver of biodiversity loss and climate change”
The report calls for improving the use of data at farm, region and national levels and inviting proposals for developing a universal farm-level calculator.
It says, “The data from the universal calculator would be in the public domain, and there would be an independent board including farmers and scientists to oversee further development.”
It adds, though, that the carbon in Scotland’s soils should not be traded until further notice, saying “The panel doubts the wisdom of farmers in Scotland selling soil carbon sequestration to outside investors.
“There are risks of farmers reducing the value of their land and making it harder to sell if they have already sold their soil carbon rights. Also, selling those rights means the credit does not appear either on the farm account (so the farm can’t claim for example to be ‘carbon positive’) or on the national account.
“The panel proposes a moratorium on trading in soil carbon in Scotland until a fair and credible scheme is in place. The presumption should be that any soil carbon sequestration benefits should be retained within Scottish agriculture’s envelope.”
Pete Ritchie, farmer and Director of Nourish Scotland said: “With COP26 a few months away, this report sets out a just transition for farming in Scotland, maintaining livelihoods and food production while transforming the impact of farming on climate and nature.
“Food production is a major global driver of biodiversity loss and climate change and the world can’t achieve the 1.5 degree target unless the way we farm becomes part of the solution. This consensus approach takes time: but we’re only going to get the change we need by working together.”
Agriculture accounts for 20 per cent of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets cannot be met without a transformation in farming, he adds.