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Milking the eco benefits of private investment

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By Fiona Reid
Milking the eco benefits of private investment

A £1.5 million project led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has found private investment in ecosystem services has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms.

The Resilient Dairy Landscapes project, funded by the Global Food Security programme, explored the trade-offs between farmers’ livelihoods, the natural environment and a stable supply of reasonably priced dairy products.

It evaluated the operation of Landscape Enterprise Networks (LENs) – which match private investors affected by landscape challenges with land managers – in Cumbria and East Anglia, as well as initiating the first networks in South West Scotland and supporting their extension into Europe.

The project found farmers in The Eden Valley, Cumbria, planted hedgerows four times faster under the privately funded Nestle-First Milk scheme than in public agri-environment schemes, suggesting that private sector investment may be needed to reach UK net-zero targets.

Farmers interviewed for the research said they preferred private investment via LENs, which offer a simplified evaluation process, to publicly funded agri-environment alternatives.

The project also sought to understand if the implementation of on-farm interventions under the Cumbrian scheme affected the prevalence and incidence of vector borne diseases in grazing cattle.

It found there was no impact from planting more hedgerows on vector-borne diseases such as summer mastitis.

Lead researcher Mark Reed, Professor of Rural Entrepreneurship at SRUC, said: “These findings are important because they show the important role hedgerow planting can play in meeting net zero targets, and how carbon finance can speed this process up and make hedgerow planting more attractive to farmers.

“Landscape Enterprise Networks are now a proven method for enabling companies to invest in the natural capital they depend upon, and the research shows that if designed well, privately funded schemes can be more attractive to farmers than publicly funded agri-environment schemes, because they are more flexible.”

The project is being carried out in partnership with the universities of Newcastle, Leeds and Liverpool, and Nestle UK among others.

For more information visit: www.resilientdairylandscapes.com

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