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Debbie Playfair: Scottish Borders – The Agriculture, Biodiversity and Climate Change Network

30 March 2024

This article originally appeared on the Farming For A Better Climate website 

Debbie runs a mixed enterprise farming business over two holdings within the Scottish Borders.

Farm Type: Mixed – livestock & cropping
Total area farmed: 1174 ha (2900 acres)
Total cropping area: 243 ha(600 acres)
Total number of livestock: 380 cows & 500 ewes

What climate/environmental actions have been undertaken on the farms?

  • Biomass plant
  • PV panels
  • Agri-environment Climate Scheme work
  • Breeding for improved beef performance on grass
  • High health cattle scheme
  • Soil analysis
  • Precision farming for fertiliser and spray applications
  • Planting of farm woodland shelter belts
  • Undertaking regular carbon audits

What impact have these activities had?

“The farms are upland and the ethos of our farming is to work with nature not against it. The woodland and hedges are important wildlife corridors and habitats in themselves. These actions along with the others noted above have been of great environmental benefit, as to what difference it has made (or will make) to climate change is impossible to quantify at this stage.

The business has benefitted in many ways (difficult/unproductive areas have been fenced for woodland or nature areas, allowing the environment to thrive), the hedges and woodland provide shelter for stock and create habitats.  The cost has been considerable, although we have on occasion had grants to assist it takes a great deal of time, effort and finance to bring these actions to fruition.”

What was the catalyst for you taking this action?

“There has never been a catalyst it is an on-going process on the farm, we wish to achieve a sustainable business that works with nature and our environment.”

Have you completed a carbon audit?

“Three carbon audits have been completed to date.”

What are your top tips/lessons learned from the experience that other farmers should consider if taking similar actions?

“Little and often is better than massive schemes or projects, particularly if grant funding is involved in that the business can be outstanding grant claims for many months which can have detrimental effects on cash flow.  Trying to access grant money is difficult in that it requires consultancy input to achieve the required level of points, more expense and no guarantee of success.”

What if anything would you do differently?

“Make AECS more widely available, currently there is no opportunity for assistance.”

What, if anything, are you planning next around climate and biodiversity?

“Future plans would include increasing the PV output and doing what we do better.  More soil analysis.”

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