A recent report from the Natural Capital Committee urges caution over plans to plants huge numbers of trees, saying that planting them in the wrong place will cause more harm than good. Planting trees on peat, for example, would cause the peat to dry out and release more carbon than the trees absorb. Covering the uplands with trees would also reduce our capacity to produce meat which might lead to greater imports from countries that produce beef by felling rain forest.
Sheep Milk Collapse
The coronavirus lockdown has caused a collapse in sheep milk production according to the British Sheep Dairying Association. Much of the milk is processed into cheese and yoghurts and sold through restaurants, pubs, farm shops, delicatessens and markets, most of which have closed. Many producers have ceased production, some after 25 years. The normal response would be to produce milk powder that can be stored and exported once international trade resumes but there is no plant in the UK.
With the continued warm dry weather, there is an increased risk of wild fires. One has recently caused mass destruction at Winfrith Heath Nature Reserve in Dorset. It may have only covered around three acres but it caused the loss of hundreds of rare plants and animals. With little sign of a return to the winter’s deluge, caution is urged on those walking in sensitive areas.
Air pollution has declined dramatically during the coronavirus lockdown with traffic on our road down to 1950s levels. The sky is clearer and emissions of greenhouse gases are far lower. The one thing that has not changed however is farming, indeed there has been a rush of activity since the rains stopped and soils have dried. This gives a unique opportunity to assess exactly farming’s contribution to pollution.