Capability, Suitability and Climate Programme for Wales

This three year project which is led by Welsh Government seeks to develop and improve the agricultural land classification model for the whole of Wales. It will assess the suitability of land for over one hundred different crops under 18 projected climate change scenarios. The project is being carried out by a consortium of Environment Systems, Cranfield University, and ADAS.

Initially Environment Systems will be focused on improving the accuracy of the underlying soil data. This will be achieved by modelling the regional distribution of certain soil series types which are known to be under – or over-graded in the Predictive ALC (Agricultural Land Classification) model. We will be analysing features such as pond density, rock outcrops and topographic setting to establish relationships with depth to impermeable clay, and total soil depth, and combining this with image analysis of vegetation characteristics, which will be tested with targeted soil sampling.

In a previous project for Welsh Government, Environment Systems assessed the suitability of areas for the planting of new potatoes. In this suitability modelling pilot, we modelled wind exposure, salt spray and frost pocket locations, and combined this information with a range of other biophysical information to demonstrate variations in land suitability for growing new potatoes. The current project will access additional Met Office data to produce more detailed wind exposure, salt spray and frost models, and apply these to the suitability modelling of over 100 crops.

Areas for new potatoes
Areas for new potatoes modelled using new ALC data

By identifying the areas that provide suitable growing conditions for different crop varieties and highlighting crop suitability under future climate scenarios, the Welsh Government, farmers, public and private sector organisations will be able to make more informed decisions on the use of land. This will help farmers to think about the future and adapt to changing circumstances. It will give Government a greater understanding of the constraints and opportunities of our natural environment and help develop informed policy.

Three engagement events are being run in early 2019 to inform interested stakeholders about the project, one for the general public, one for Defra and associates and one for Natural Resources Wales and associates.

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.