Agriculture and Environment Working Group
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Review of Recent UK and European Research Regarding Reduction, Regulation and Control of the Environmental Impacts of Agriculture

R.Birnie, P.Dennis, S. Dunn, A.Edwards, P.Horne, G.Hill, P. Hulme*, E.Paterson, S.Langan and G.Wynn.

This project relates to the commitment made by the Scottish Executive in the document, A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture, "to examine the environmental issues which will impact on farming and food processing businesses over the next 5-10 years". The SEERAD-sponsored Agriculture and Environment Working Group (AEWG), set up under the chairmanship of Professor T.J. Maxwell to tackle this problem, subsequently identified the need for a Review of recent UK and European research relevant to agriculture and the environment. After competitive tendering, a team of experts from the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology were selected by SEERAD to undertake this Review.

The Review was concerned with recent research. Specifically those findings that could contribute to practical, cost-effective solutions in agricultural management, particularly those that enhance environmental benefits or reduce negative environmental impacts. The Review covered the following specific issues:

All file sizes are in bytes
Subject matter Summary Factsheet
Overview PDF version 63,967  
Scope and Approach PDF version 62,441  
Cost-effectiveness PDF version 75,847  
Soil Physical Damage PDF version 110,381 PDF version 235,208
Hydrological Effects PDF version 86,559 Irrigation 214,599
Drainage 183,221
Accelerated Loss of Nutrients PDF version 128,391 PDF version 163,287
Herbicides and Pesticides PDF version 82,565 PDF version 125,070
Faecal Pathogens PDF version 109,605 PDF version 164,490
Habitats and Biodiversity PDF version 167,953 PDF version 268,168
Non-indigenous Species PDF version 163,503 PDF version 157,381
Landscape Level Effects PDF version 85,829 PDF version 120,588
Climate Change PDF version 142,917 PDF version 129,869
Delivery Mechanisms PDF version 75,483  

The final report presents summary statements, critical commentaries, and selected bibliographies on each issue. A set of fact sheets has also been produced. These summarise the problems, the potential impacts, and identifies those areas of Scotland that are most at risk and what practical management solutions are available.

The Review identifies gaps in our knowledge about the environmental impacts of agriculture, and raises issues about the low standard of environmental management that appears to be practised by a majority of Scottish farmers. Whilst education and advice will be important factors in improving the latter, consideration also needs to be given to the problem of mismatch between the scale of agricultural management and the scale that environmental issues need to be dealt with. Because many of the environmental impacts interact and tend to propagate to the catchment or landscape scales, it would appear sensible to develop approaches to managing them at these scales. The Review concludes that an approach to environmental management based upon clusters of farms rather than individual farms might be most appropriate.