Farmers could increase their profits and help to achieve sustainable goals for agriculture by adopting ecological management practices, new research has found.
Researchers at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) carried out an economic assessment of four different ecological practices on Scottish livestock farms.
They looked at farm level data collected from 31 livestock farms as part of a large-scale survey of Scottish farmers carried out between January and March 2020.
A farm level economic model, ScotFarm, was then used to analyse the economic impacts of several ecological farm management practices.
The aim of the study was to understand whether the economic feasibility of an ecological management practice would lead to better uptake by farmers.
They found that setting aside an ecological area on agricultural land and reducing farm inputs – both of which can be easily adopted by farmers - offer potential financial benefits of up to a 7% increase in farm profits.
However, changing from a conventional to an organic farming system and setting aside farmland to plant trees require capital investment,
The study said this made them a more challenging prospect for adoption by livestock farmers without provision of financial support.
Shailesh Shrestha, an economist at SRUC said: “The Scottish government has put forward a long-term Climate Change Plan to achieve a cleaner, greener and healthier Scotland by 2032.
"Adaptation of agro-ecological management practices by farmers is a potential approach to support these plans. However, a critical issue is the economic impact of adoption of these practices.
“Our research provided a snapshot of the economic impacts of a number of ecological management practices and economic challenges farmers face in adopting those practices on farms.
“However, a better understanding of the economic feasibility of these agro-ecological management practices would be very useful in maximising the uptake of these management practices by the Scottish farming community.”
The research was part of the EU project Low Input Farming and Territories (LIFT), funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.