Climate Change special report: How farmers are trying to make a difference

In just a few months time, the UK will host world leaders in Glasgow - in the hope of thrashing out a plan to reduce carbon emissions - and bring global warming back under control.

It is an enormous challenge - with fundamental changes needed to many aspects of our lives - from transport - to the food we eat - to get a grip on the climate crisis.

On Henry Ward's farm the changing of the seasons should bring with it more predictability. But he knows better - than to try and second-guess the weather.

He said: "Over the last couple of years we've gone through everything from being flooded here, we'd have been underwater stood here now, to then last January nearly flooded again, to then April, a drought, and then now we've just had one of the wettest Mays on record, so yeah, it just shows that we're suffering with these massive extremes of weather and we've just got to deal with it as best we can."

Short Ferry Farm November 2019

This was Short Ferry Farm near Lincoln in November 2019. The farm house - an island - in a lake of flood water.

This is climate change in action. Henry is one of the victims - but he also thinks he is part of the solution.

Each year - UK farms release the equivalent of 45 million tonnes of Carbon into the atmosphere. That is around a tenth of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. 

The implications for the climate are huge.

Summer 2018 saw a heatwave lasting from June to August across the UK.

Heatwave in 2018 caused droughts affecting crop yields

The Met Office says such heatwaves are now 30 times more likely to happen because of climate change.

Meanwhile the wettest February on record last year followed the fifth wettest winter. Already saturated ground was overwhelmed by three consecutive storms. It led to severe flooding in villages around Snaith in East Yorkshire.

Again the Met Office says that in our lifetime - winters could be up to a third wetter because of the effects of climate change.

On a farm in North Yorkshire - saplings have recently arrived from the Woodland Trust. In Yorkshire and the North East - they've joined forces with the National Farmers Union to encourage more farmers to grow trees on their land.

It is part of the NFU's goal to reach carbon zero across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040.

Kate  Adams, National Farmers' Union, said: "Capturing carbon is a key aspect of our net zero by 2040 report, so on that report we have one pillar which is dedicated to capturing carbon and as we can see here, we've got trees that are growing so when they grow bigger they will capture carbon and store it away and this is the same for things like grass, crops and soils too.

Planting trees, although it's great, its not a silver bullet solution to dealing with climate change, and again in our 2040 report we have two other pillars, so our other one is improving productivity, so that's growing the same if not more food on existing or less land with less impact, and also we have a third pillar which is boosting bio economy and implementing renewable energy technologies onto farms, so together with these things combined we'll be able to make a big difference and help to mitigate the impact of climate change."

So-called 'vertical farms' where plants are grown under artificial light around the clock would be one of the answers on how to produce food to feed a growing population without impacting the climate. Rather than soil - the roots sit in a solution of water and essential nutrients. It means crops can grow twice as fast - 365 days a year.

They can be stacked - shelf upon shelf - reducing the impact on the land as well.

Lucy Ploughman, Crop Health and Protection Technical Liaison Officer, said: "You can grow much more from a much smaller area, which as you said saves land use. So at the minute 40 per cent of UK land use is used for growing crops and so things like vertical farming really take that pressure off the land which can potentially allow the land to be shifted into more environmental schemes or boosting biodiversity, things like that."

I think it's definitely one of the solution to transforming how the UK produces food. It's not going to replace traditional agriculture, but it's certainly one of the routes to reduce some of the pressure on how we currently farm, by using facilities such as this to produce food locally and much more productively compared to standard farming.

Climate scientist John Grant - has literally taken his work home with him.

He is testing new ways of growing food in a far less carbon intensive way - setting up his own aquaponics system in his garden in Sheffield.

John Grant - Climate scientist

The waste produced by keeping fish - provides nutrients for his crops. In turn the plants clean the water - to allow the fish to thrive. The relationship between the two - John believes - could provide an answer to producing food far more efficiently.

He said: "So here we go, three crops a year, twice as many plants, that's six times the food per square metre than you'd get in an allotment, now we're getting interesting. Is it true? Come back in a year, I'll tell you."

Great strides are being made in farming - to reduce the impact our food has on our environment.

But with a growing population that means there could be more than two billion more mouths to feed around the world in less than three decades - there is a now race to prevent a looming climate crisis.