2 June 1995

Global warming to take second place

GLOBAL warming is not expected to have as much impact on UK farming and the countryside as set-aside.

Farming will be affected by climate change, says a report for the Countryside Commission. But economic policies, technological advances and plant breeding efforts will continue to have a greater impact.

"The introduction of 15% set-aside in 1992/1993 probably had a greater effect on agricultural production and the appearance of our countryside than any impacts expected as a result of climatic change over the next 60 years," it says.

Climate change experts predict that in 50-60 years time the average global temperature will increase by 1C (1.8F). This represents a 5-6-week increase in the plant growing season. Sea levels are also forecast to rise by between 5-41cm (2-16in) by 2050.

In south and east England summers are likely to be slightly drier with higher temperatures and increased risk of drought. But western areas are likely to be even wetter. Predicted effects on crops include:

&#8226 Falls of between 5%-10% in wheat yields but increases of 5%-10% in root crop yields, depending on irrigation supplies.

&#8226 A northward move in planted maize and sunflower areas.

&#8226 Increased pest populations.

and warmer winters.

Demand for irrigation water is almost certain to increase, says the report, and schemes to move water from the wetter west to the drier east may be required.