The nation’s agricultural education systems needs to be overhauled if the industry is going to have the skills and knowledge it needs to produce more food, according to NFU Scotland.

It said a new era of land-based research and training was needed if the challenges and opportunities facing farming were going to be met.

It said existing spending on agricultural skills should be refocused so they were refocused on creating “more dynamic support” for the industry.

Calling for a review of the educational system in a bid to make it “fit for purpose”, NFUS president Nigel Miller said interest in agricultural careers was growing.

In a letter to Scottish rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead, Mr Miller said that increase was set against a history of low profitability and succession issues which had previously threatened farming’s future skill base.

“Attracting the best of our new generation to the industry is vital to drive Scottish farming forward and a review of our system would be timely,” he wrote.

“In the future, we face the challenge of producing more food of a higher quality from less land and using less resource. For that to happen, we need a new level of technical support and a fresh look at how we deliver skills, education and knowledge.”

Mr Miller said many young people struggled to find training opportunities because of funding cuts and a shrinking research system.

“It is a sad fact that our Scottish system, which was once viewed as world leading, is probably no longer the best,” he added.

“To drive things forward, we need to examine how we make the most of our existing education sites and set out how they can deliver relevant training and education.

“We must ensure they continue to deliver knowledge to the industry and still perform an essential research role.”

There was real opportunity to get more value from the talents which excited in Scotland’s land-based sector, he added.

“We urge the Scottish Government to put in place a strategy to review, revitalise and appropriately support skills development and education.

“We will need to break down outdated barriers and inject a new energy so that Scotland’s agricultural education provision regains its world-leading status.”