Crop Suitability Monitoring in Wales

According to the latest Met Office UK Climate Projections (UKCP18), the UK is going to experience wetter winters, warmer and drier summers, increased incidence of storms and extreme weather, and rising sea levels. Soil is a complex medium, and different soil types, in different landscape contexts, are expected to respond to climatic changes to different extents. This creates a great deal of uncertainty in how climate change could impact on agricultural production in Wales. Environment Systems has completed a two-year project led by Welsh Government, using new climate projection and Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) data to unravel this uncertainty. The project used soil and climate information to model land suitability for 118 different crop types, including some novel crops such as tea and almonds, under current conditions and nine projected climate change scenarios.

Potato crop suitability
Overall suitability for potato grown on a commercial basis across nine climate change scenarios
During the project, the partners developed and improved the existing soil mapping for Wales, updating the ALC dataset. Environment Systems carried out additional biophysical modelling of wind, frost, salt spray, and flood risk, combining the data to consider how all factors affect our ability to grow different crops in different parts of Wales. Different climate change scenarios were explored – low, medium and high emissions scenarios, up to 2080.

A variety of crops common to Wales and the UK were considered, including cereals, row crops, horticultural crops, orchard crops, timber crops and specialist crops. The outputs from the project take the form of GIS data files which contain the models for all 118 crops. The suitability modelling shows how the spatial extent of suitable ground for each crop changes with the climate in the different scenarios. The models tell us that the agricultural sector in Wales will be required to change in a relatively short period of time but not all parts of Wales will be affected in the same way, or to the same extent. The models provide an important source of evidence for policy makers, landowners and the agricultural industry as they prepare and plan for the future.

This project was led by Welsh Government Land, Nature and Forestry Division with partners Environment Systems Limited, RSK ADAS Limited and Cranfield University.