Scotland's agricultural industry can slash its greenhouse gas emissions by more than one-third if farmers put in place a series of practical measures such as turning organic and planting more trees, a report suggests.

Research commissioned by the environmental charity WWF Scotland highlights the most important mitigation measures farms can introduce without changing how land is used.

They found a 38 per cent reduction in emissions could be achieved by 2045. Extreme weather in 2017/18 alone is estimated to have cost Scottish farmers £161 million due to livestock losses and lower crop yields.

Dr Sheila George, food and environment policy manager at WWF Scotland, said farmers north of the Border could lead the way in combating the climate crisis.

She said: “Agriculture is at risk from a changing climate but can be part of the climate solution – our land is our biggest natural defence against climate change and farmers and other land managers have a key role in protecting it.

“We need to produce food in a way that reduces emissions and locks up more carbon.

“By adapting our farming methods, Scotland could be at the forefront of the global transition to climate-friendly farming with unique export and branding opportunities arising. “To get there, we need to see a reframing of rural policy, financial support along with advice and training available for land managers.”

The latest report, Delivering on Net Zero: Scottish Agriculture, was carried out by the Organic Policy, Business and Research Consultancy. It found: “In theory, if taken up 100 per cent and accounting for no interactions, the measures could reduce Scottish agricultural emissions by almost 100%.

“In practice, there are many reasons why measures might not be implemented in combination, or adopted, by all farmers.

“We estimated that the most promising measures could potentially deliver 2.9 Mt CO2e annually, or 38% of 2017 GHG emissions, and concluded that the 35% target is achievable by 2045.”

Researchers studied 37 different measures, including reducing nitrogen fertiliser use, spreading more organic manure, bringing in feed additives to reduce methane production from animals, and improving animal health and breeding.

Turning organic was found to deliver more than one-quarter (27%) of the target with 40% uptake. Agroforestry – integrating trees on farms – was predicted to deliver one-fifth (21%) of the target with just 30% uptake, assuming 10% of farmland is used for trees.

WWF Scotland called on the Scottish Government to review support for farmers to help them achieve the target. Ruth Taylor, climate change policy manager at the National Farmers Union Scotland, said any measures must consider the long-term sustainability of farming.

She said: “Climate change is a critically important issue for Scottish agriculture, and it is vital that farmers are part of the solution to climate change.

“Any policy introduced to tackle climate change must consider the longterm sustainability of farming and food production in Scotland.

“Measures to reduce emissions should provide practical measures that contribute to climate change challenges while maintaining production and driving forward the performance of agricultural businesses.

“Reducing emissions from agriculture in Scotland should not come at the expense of exporting our emissions or displacing production.

“The introduction of a suite of measures to mitigate climate change will be important – it is clear that there will be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to reducing emissions from agriculture.”

Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Scotland is renowned for its food and drink. It is also renowned for climate action. Now is the time to combine them.

“Today our food and drink are the envy of the world. Get this right, and we can help ensure it is the low carbon envy of tomorrow’s world too.”

A Scottish Government spokesman praised the 29.4% reduction since 1990 but said more work needs to be done to reach net zero by 2045.

He said: “We encourage all farmers and crofters to explore the practical examples, advice and information that is available through the Scottish Government-supported Farming For a Better Climate and Monitor Farm programmes, as well as the Farm Advisory Service.”