Climate change is set to have far-reaching effects on UK agriculture, particularly in the south east. It could also influence the way land is valued in future, according to predictions by land agent Hugh Fell.

Mr Fell told a North Sheep forum, chaired by FW livestock editor, Jonathan Long, that both livestock and arable enterprises would experience extra costs as a result of a rise in summer droughts and winter soil moisture levels.

Commenting on predictions that the UK could lose 40-45% of its summer rainfall by 2080, Mr Fell said the industry could move towards store animals being produced in the south and sent north for finishing, where farms would have greater potential for summer grass production.

Mr Fell, of George F White, believed most problems would be localised. For example, farms on thin soil overlying rock would be at even greater risk from drought, while heavier land would suffer more problems with poaching.

Timing of operations could shift and more sunshine hours due to reduced cloud cover would lead to a change in cropping and varietal choices.

Climate change would also have an influence on farmland values, headded, with water high on the agenda.

“Over the next 20 to 40 years, having a long-term private water supply could become more important than acreage, when it comes to selling a farm. Capital value may also depreciate on land and property close to areas liable to flooding.”

Restrictions

Mr Fell warned that although environmental schemes suited some holdings, the restrictions they imposed on landowners’ flexibility could potentially store up problems for the future.

“While the schemes can compensate for lost production, they do not take into account reduced land values, and rough grazing tends to be worth less,” said Mr Fell.

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fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk