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Eastern Coastal Lowlands

Arable land in River Dee valley, Aberdeenshire
Arable land in River Dee valley, Aberdeenshire
This geographical region is characterised by flat to gently undulating terrain almost entirely devoted to agricultural use. Stretching from the Merse of Berwickshire in the south northward through the Lothians and Fife into North East Scotland fringing the Grampian Mountains, the region also includes the Moray Firth lowlands and the Black Isle/Invergordon area. Also included within the northeast sector is the Caithness Plain where predominantly gley soils and extensive areas of peat contrast with the higher proportion of free draining soils elsewhere. Till deposits, often with mixed rock types but associated with glacial deposition are extensive alongwith fluvioglacial and raised beach deposits, both of which may have a high gravel component. Loamy and silty clay deposits of low raised beaches are locally of agricultural significance. Areas of windblown sand adjacent to the coastline are locally extensive, the largest examples being at Culbin in Morayshire and Tentsmuir in Fife.

Whereas the greater proportion of the area lies below about 200m, many areas exceed 300m and the highest parts rise to 600m. Such instances of high ground are determined by differential erosion of the rock types with the resistant igneous rocks forming distinctive hill areas, for example the Ochils and Sidlaws and isolated hills within the Buchan Platform.


Good quality arable land in east coastal plain
Good quality arable land in east coastal plain
Arable cropping is widespread with ideal climatic conditions, relatively flat land and the presence of deep, free draining soils all combining to provide flexibility of cropping. Some of the most productive soils in Scotland with the capacity to grow a wide range of crops are located around Carnoustie, along the coastal fringes of Fife and in the Lothians. Elsewhere, cereal cropping and root crops are grown intensively.

Where droughtiness is a potential problem, it is common practice to install an irrigation scheme, otherwise the land is used for pasture rather than crops. The widespread use of fertilisers has created localised problems associated with the release of nitrogen and phosphorus into watercourses. Soils erosion is not widespread but can be locally significant, the loss of sandy topsoil within Morayshire from spring gales being a particular problem.

Learning & Resources

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.