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Dairy sector Natural Capital trial publishes findings

The findings of a study to apply the world leading Natural Capital Protocol to the dairy sector have today been published. Crown Estate Scotland commissioned Cumulus Consultants and Aecom to complete the trial on a dairy farm on the Applegirth Estate in Dumfries and Galloway.

‘Natural capital’ can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets. These include food, water and the plants we use for fuel, building materials and medicines, as well as the natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peatlands, and the pollination of crops.

This trial demonstrates how the Protocol can be applied in a new way, assessing the health of the natural environment and helping agriculture build a sustainable future. A farmer using the protocol can see how their different business decisions might affect the environment and make more sustainable choices as a result.

The aim of the study was to build on what was learnt in three previous trials conducted on Crown Estate Scotland land and to test the approach in a dairy farm setting. Its conclusions included:

  • The Natural Capital Protocol can be successfully applied to the dairy sector.
  • With consumers increasingly conscious of environmental footprints, being able to show a link between agriculture and environmental benefits is a plus.
  • The trial allowed the farmer taking part to think of the environment in terms of natural capital ‘assets’ and articulate how the business depends on some of these assets and how it impacts others.
  • The trial also generated a new set of recommendations on how to further refine the application of the protocol to land based businesses.

The trial also showed how the protocol makes it easier for farmers to capture evidence of their positive impacts on the environment, which can be critical in securing funding.

Dairy farmer David Taylor said: “Through this trial I have become more aware of some of the knock-on effects of farm management and activities than I was in the past. In the future I hope to put this learning to use.”

Crown Estate Scotland Director of Property, Andrew Wells, said: “Each setting is unique, and this trial tested the applicability and utility of the Protocol for a different type of farming. Dairy farming is a hugely important industry, and one which is facing its own particular set of challenges, this trial showed that by better analysing the ‘capital’ that dairy farmers utilise, we can help inform how the industry can move forward over the coming years.”

Crown Estate Scotland will continue to work with partners from the Scottish Forum of Natural Capital’s Sustainable Land Management Working Group to explore how the outputs from the trial can effectively contribute to protecting and enhancing Scotland’s Natural Capital.

A more detailed report on the study can be found here.

Further information on the natural capital protocol can be found here.