THE NEXT two planks in the Scottish Government’s attempts to put a floor on agricultural production whilst allying it to vastly improving their green credentials, are due to be tacked into place in the next few weeks.

Both the Dairy and Arable ‘climate change’ groups’ findings should give firm pointers to the way ahead for those sectors, both in the physical terms of what can be done and also in recommending how funding can smooth the way to making real change happen. Just how big the carrots will be, will be the role of Government when it chooses which ideas it wants to support.

In that respect, the Suckler Beef group’s report, which has been with the Scottish Government and its civil servants since October of last year, will also be due to come out, hopefully prior to the purdah before the Scottish Parliament recesses for the electioneering process for the elections on May 6. It will be interesting to see just how many of the eminently sensible suggestions contained within this highly detailed report – all 112 pages of it – will actually form the basis of future agricultural policy.

We suspect that the dairy group’s finding will not quite be able to cut and paste a chunk of the beef findings, but there will be a lot of similarities to go on. But, there will also be sector specific issues, such as slurry management, much higher power use and use of machinery to consider.

For the arable group, though, there will not be the same principles of commonality and there will be ever more complications because of the diverse nature of the sector. Brian Henderson makes a very good point in his Arable Matters’ column this week that the heavy environmental cost of the production of artificial fertilisers is actually reflected in the tally of ‘industrial’ use – and should it be left to farming to pick up the ‘bill’ for this, then it is an onerous task.

And, because of its reliance on big power units, will there be something in there which will allow for support for alternative power units. In that respect, hydrogen power cells look to be the only option for tractors and combines. At the moment, there is no credible electric alternative that can stand the pace of modern agriculture without too much downtime for re-charging.

Reducing cultivations by using min-till methods – which is still eschewed by many arable growers for various reasons – will no doubt be a major part of the recommendations. While that would be a liveable-with prospect had a decent suite of herbicides been readily available, it’s going to be a challenge in our temperate growing climate to keep on top of weeds.

It might be a forlorn hope, but there’s maybe scope here for a renewed backing for the likes of glyphosate to be part of any Scotland-specific scheme going forward? One pass with that can do a better job on weeds than several passes with mechanical weeding tools – maybe a case of losing some ‘green’ brownie points, to gain a lot!