Speaking at the first day of the ‘Cereals’ event south of the border - which went ahead ‘in the flesh’ – English NFU president Minette Batters highlighted the role the sector could play in preventing and managing the impacts of climate change.
She also pointed out the opportunities climate mitigation could offer arable businesses and the challenges that need to be overcome in order to maximise them.
“The crops grown in the UK form the very basis of our diets, producing the raw ingredients for the nation’s pantry staples, but their significance does not end there,” said Batters.
“I truly believe that British farming businesses can be global leaders in climate-resilient food production and the arable sector is at the core of this.”
She said that as the nation looked down the road to net zero carbon emissions, growers had the rare ability to fuel the bioeconomy and have a positive impact on decarbonisation within farming and other sectors.
“Our arable farmers are also uniquely placed to capture carbon through soil management, such as through green cover crops or reduced tillage systems.
"And it’s so important that government schemes such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) properly incentivise, support and reward this type of work,” she said.
Noting the move towards E10 at petrol stations, which would see the inclusion of higher levels of bioethanol in petrol, she said there would be further opportunities for farmers to direct more land and by-products into biomass production, renewable energy and carbon capture.
She said that it was important that the contribution farmers could make toward the UK’s national net zero target by avoiding fossil fuel emissions and driving crucial greenhouse gas removal was recognised and encouraged in the UK government’s upcoming biomass strategy.
But she added that while the country’s net zero ambitions would provide a variety of economic opportunities for growers, the challenges which came with it should not be underestimated.
One of these challenges, said Batters, was building climate resilience, both on a national scale and on an individual farm business basis to give farm businesses the best chance of surviving and thriving in the future.
But another key areas was ensuring that trade policy ensured did not undermine the efforts of UK farmers by importing less sustainable food.
Meanwhile, a ‘drone zone’ at the Cereals event highlighted the fact that the UK and Europe were lagging behind in the uptake of this important technology – largely due to regulation.
Jim Bishop, director at Red Air Media said that this was due to the complexity of the rules and the fears of contravening them.
“But in China and the East they have been happy to embrace the use of drones,” he said.
“We have spent the past year working out a way to use drones for spraying and are at the point we just need chemical companies on board.”