Sustainable Home Production of Food

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In any country, sustainable food will be food that readily can be produced in the climatic, geographic and soil conditions that prevail. Historically cross northern Europe starch rich crops have been relatively easy to produce.  In contrast, it has been exceptionally difficult to produce palatable high quality plant proteins. Soya is one of the very few ‘first class’ vegetable proteins (i.e. proteins that contain all of the amino acids needed to be supplied in the human diet).  As far as I am aware, this crop still cannot be grown commercially in Northern Europe (although trials  are underway, with several thousand Ha having been grown in southern England). Grass however, generally grows exceptionally well and as a result, the production of animal proteins has flourished, becoming the principal protein source for the region.


Although it may be desirable from the perspective of GHG emissions to reduce consumption of animal protein, the production of animal proteins must, for the foreseeable future remain part of the portfolio of Scottish agriculture.  However, the agricultural industries must find ways to make animal production sustainable.  This will include;

  • a move away from the reliance on imported plant proteins (especially soy) as food for both ruminant and monogastric livestock
  • focus on grass feeding ruminants 
  • focus on pasture management to maximise carbon capture an minimise release of other GHGs
  • manage effluents in ways which minimise the release of GHGs as well as avoiding pollution of water
  • protection of water bodies from run-off and leaching from fields


Arable farming also will need to undergo significant evolution (or revolution) in order to be sustainable.  In the context of climate change, this is likely to include:

  • development of soil management systems that will minimise GHG emissions from soils
  • find new ways of maintaining soil fertility that do not depend on the hugely energy demanding Haber-Bosch (or similar) process to make nitrate rich fertilisers.
  • adapt to growing crops suited to whatever climatic conditions develop as a result of climate change already in train
  • greater focus on producing high protein crops (yet to be commercially available) that could be used both for human and animal feed e.g. soya or hemp
  • drainage management to help reduce the likelihood of flooding

These comments here been limited to sustainable agriculture in the context of climate change.  Of course to be sustainable agriculture will also have to address wider issues such as biodiversity, but they are beyond the scope of this forum.

Why the contribution is important

Food production and processing are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.  Scotland always will need a thriving agriculture industry producing high quality and affordable food.  However in order to be sustainable, all sectors of this industry will have to find ways to reducing their emissions of Greenhouse gasses significantly.

by MarkColyer on October 25, 2020 at 08:40PM

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