‘Global warming to expand exotic crops in the UK’

Dramatic changes in climate could see red wine grapes, avocados and tropical fruits grown in the UK by 2060, according to new research.

Radio 4’s Costing The Earth investigates research that suggests by 2060 much of the UK could have the climate of Madeira, an island just off Morocco.

The two-part radio programme, in which presenter Tom Heap visits “The Island of Eternal Spring”, will be aired at 9pm tonight (Wednesday 15 August), responding to research from the government-sponsored Living with Environmental Change Programme.

Lead scientist Peter Carey will tell the programme that by 2060, much of the UK could be up to six degrees hotter, with rainfall the same or even higher. The result of such environmental change would be dramatic for agriculture, with a shift in produce towards tropical fruits, maize and new vegetable varieties.

The two episodes cover Mr Heap’s visit to the island, where he meets farmers, climate change experts and the director of the Madeira National Park to investigate what changes farming in our country could expect in 2060.

“We were among fields of maize, then wheat next door to lemon groves”, said Mr Heap.

“The warm climate and good soil enable three harvests a year, crops will grow better and gardens will enjoy new plants”.

The programme also looks at irrigation systems in the country, the benefit increased CO2 would have on woodland, as well as the tropical wildlife we could expect in 50 years’ time.

Madeira is situated 350 miles west of Morocco and has a climate dominated by the Atlantic, a wet mountainous north and a warm, dry south. Farming on the island sees a range of crops from oranges and bananas to wheat and sweet potatoes.

* DEFRA’s Climate Change Risk Assessment report, published in January, highlighted the challenges UK faces over projected changes to climate.