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Scotland's farmers are to increase their green credentials after it was confirmed new software will be up and running this summer.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the £400,000 PLANET (Planning Land Application of Nutrients for Efficiency and the Environment) Scotland project will help improve the environment and the farm business.

With the user friendly software, farmers will be able to use field level information to generate fertiliser recommendations and to set up a nutrient management plan.

Launching a Scottish version of the software, which will be widely available from June, at the joint conference of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Edinburgh today, Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"Pollution and climate change are renewed pressures on our soils and could, if not properly managed, significantly reduce our ability to grow crops and ensure Scotland's long-term food security.

"This software will help farmers to make the most efficient use of expensive fertilisers and work out cost-effective methods on how to maintain and improve soil quality and productivity.

"With rural land use alone accounting for around 20 per cent of Scotland's emissions, climate-friendly farming is vital in helping us meet our targets to tackle climate change.

"This is a win - win situation. By supporting PLANET, farmers can help meet Scotland's climate change and water quality targets and improve business profitability."

Jonnie Hall, Head of Rural Policy for NFU Scotland, said:

"PLANET is a tailored decision-making tool that offers a guide to farming practice that should help farmers deliver economic and environmental gain simultaneously.

"Producers have an increasing need to be as efficient as possible in terms of fertiliser management, both in and out of NVZ areas. As well as helping to optimise returns from this valuable input, appropriate fertiliser management addresses the wider environmental responsibilities that farmers face in this area such as minimising adverse impacts on the water environment and making a contribution towards tackling climate change.

"In making use of the PLANET tool, which aids practical nutrient management, farmers could achieve real 'win-win' results."

The PLANET Scotland software tool has been developed by ADAS and SAC and is designed for routine use by all Scottish farmers and advisers who will be able to obtain nutrient recommendations according to the SAC nutrient recommendations system. The PLANET Scotland NVZ modules for Scottish farmers will help farmers assess and show compliance with the NVZ rules that apply in Scotland.

Funding towards the capital costs of manure and slurry storage facilities has been made available through the Scotland Rural Development Programme. Up to November 2009 the SRDP had provided £6 million of funding for slurry storage. To further support farmers, and help reduce the losses of nutrients to the water environment, the funding available for manure and slurry storage was increased through the SRDP, from January 1, 2010, to 50 percent.

Scotland's Climate Change Delivery Plan identifies a comprehensive approach to carbon in rural land use as one of the key transformational measures required to achieve our ambitious targets. The Scottish Government is working in collaboration with the agricultural sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the 'Farming for a Better Climate' initiative. The focus is on reducing avoidable emissions - those arising from inefficient farming practice - while maintaining a sustainable, competitive and efficient industry. Our Focus Farm programme will help farmers see these win-wins in practice. Three Focus Farms - one arable, one dairy, and one cattle and sheep - will be chosen very soon.

Under the Climate Change Act we are developing a Land Use Strategy. There are many pressures on our land, and we have objectives which may be said to overlap. We need an integrated approach to such questions as the balance between forestry and livestock on hill land.

The future of Scotland's climate, water and soil are all under the microscope at the eighth joint conference of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which is examining how global changes in climate affect Scotland at national, landscape and local scales. Held over two days (March 31 - April 1) the conference, taking place at Pollock Halls, Edinburgh, brings together leading experts to address the science and policy surrounding the management of climate, water and soils in a rapidly changing economic and natural environment. It will present the best available science and research knowledge and provide a forum to raise and discuss ways in which policy needs to be adapted to meet future challenges.

Source: © The Scottish Gonvernment

Written by Roger Tolman
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 10:10

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