Crown Estate Scotland (CES) published a new report today, outlining the findings from their trial on a dairy farm on the Applegirth Estate in Dumfries and Galloway. This marks the fourth in a series of trials conducted by CES, seeking to build upon the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP) to offer new and sustainable opportunities for land based businesses

‘Natural capital’ can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets, which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things. The benefits, or ‘ecosystem services’, accrued from natural capital can include natural flood defences, crop pollination, and carbon sequestration. This means that natural capital has huge potential value to Scottish businesses in sectors like tourism, food and drink.

In this instance, CES were interested to learn more about natural capital interactions within the dairy sector, and commissioned Cumulus Consultants and Aecom to conduct the trial.  The study used the NCP to identify, measure, and value impacts and dependencies, whether direct or indirect, of the farm business on natural capital.

Some of the key findings included…

  • The Natural Capital Protocol is directly applicable to the dairy sector.
  • Being able to demonstrate a link between agriculture and environmental benefits is an increasingly important consideration for environmentally-conscious consumers.
  • The farmer participating in the trial was able to articulate what the environment was in terms of natural capital ‘assets’, describe the business dependency on some of these assets, and how it impacts upon others.
  • The trial also resulted in a set of new recommendations outlining options for refining the protocol’s application to land based businesses.
  • The protocol can make it simpler for farmers to evidence their positive impacts on the environment, often crucial when sourcing funding.

Participating 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.”

CES 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.”

The innovative work of CES has formed a hugely important part of the Scottish Forum of Natural Capital’s ongoing Sustainable Land Management Working Group. We will continue to work in partnership with CES and other stakeholders, to explore how the trial’s outputs can help to protect and enhance Scotland’s Natural Capital in the future.

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

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