15 March 2002

Winners and losers as climate changes

CLIMATE change over the next 50 years may render dairy farming less competitive but boost arable incomes, according to a government-backed report.

The study, part of the UK Climate Impact Programme, examined two possible scenarios for East Anglia and north-west England to 2050.

Both took into account socio-economic factors such as further trade liberalisation and CAP reform as well as possible changes in temperature and rainfall.

Low-lying areas

Under the worst possible circumstances, the study forecast certain low lying coastal areas of East Anglia would become unusable for arable crops and in some cases grazing would even be impossible.

Warmer weather would mean increased yields at first, but they would start to decline again by 2050. Winter wheat would begin to suffer as a result of drier summer soils and earlier maturity. This would lead to a move towards spring cropping.

But sugar beet and potatoes would look increasingly attractive because of increased yields, especially where water is available for irrigation, the report suggests.

Ignoring the effects of policies such as increases in water pricing, the area of irrigated potato fields would double.

In the north-west, the report suggests socio-economic changes would have more of an impact on the way cropping changes than global warming.

Yields on grassland would increase by up to 30%, the study forecasts, but adds it is expected there will be a decline in the competitiveness of dairy farming.

"There will be a very large reduction in farmed grass in the lowlands, and a dramatic increase in arable farming extending into some of the higher areas," it says. &#42