High chance of 'potato blight' disease increasing in Scotland due to climate change, according to Met Office study

A new study from the Met Office shows that a potato disease which occurs in hot weather could significantly affect crop output in Scotland if climate change continues.

Potato farming in Scotland will be affected by a potato disease caused by hot weather if global warming continues, according to Met Office study (Photo: Lisa Ferguson).
Potato farming in Scotland will be affected by a potato disease caused by hot weather if global warming continues, according to Met Office study (Photo: Lisa Ferguson).

The study – published in Climate Risk Management – examines the effect of climate change on the dairy and potato farming sectors over the next thirty to fifty years.

During this period, the study found that in east Scotland, where the majority of Scottish potatoes are grown, a ‘potato blight’ may occur around 70% more often.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A Potato blight is a disease affecting potato crops which occurs in warm, humid weather, making them unusable produce.

65% of Scottish potatoes are grown across east Scotland, according to Scottish Government Agricultural figures, meaning that if this blight occurs it will significantly affect the production of potatoes in the country.

Dr Freya Garry is the author of the study said: “Projections show potential for major climate change impacts on UK farming.

“Given the potentially serious consequences for UK farming, we felt it was appropriate to work with a high impact scenario.

"Even under lower emission pathways, we know that our climate will continue to change so even if the impacts are smaller than identified in this study, our study provides useful information for adaptation planning.”

The study also showed how an increase in temperatures will affect cows suffering from thermal heat stress across the UK.

In south west Scotland – where the majority of Scotland's 178,490 cows reside – the risk of dairy cows suffering from thermal heat stress will increase by 2120% in the next 50 years, according to the study.

A Met Office spokesperson said: “Both food for cattle, crops for humans, and potato growing will all be threatened by increased drought in the future, which we tend to experience when we have particularly hot dry summers, such as 2018.”

The paper – “Future climate risk to UK agriculture from compound events”– has been published in the journal ‘Climate Risk Management’.

This work was funded under the Strategic Priority Fund for UK Climate Resilience.

The UK Climate Resilience programme is supported by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.

The programme is co-delivered by the Met Office and NERC on behalf of UKRI partners AHRC, EPSRC and ESRC.

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.