The time is now for a greener revolution in agriculture, to increase the productivity of farming in a more sustainable and environmentally compatible way.
If we want to make sustainable progress towards our goal of enhancing food security and nutrition, driving growth, and protecting the environment, it is critical that we forge closer collaborations between the private and public sectors.
We need to recognise that we are reaching the ecological limits that our planet can bear. We must cultivate new ideas and answers to freeze our environmental footprint and farm better the land we have available.
Five-point plan to a greener revolution
Investing into agricultural R&D is the most productive way to support agriculture long-term. At Bayer CropScience, we recognise the ongoing need for innovative solutions to help feed and protect the planet, which is why we are committed to investing EUR 5 billion into R&D from 2011-16, investing significantly in cutting-edge chemistry and new areas of innovation, including plant-breeding techniques that focus on stress-tolerance and biological crop protection. It is crucial that we pursue all available technologies to make a sustainable difference in helping to ensure food security.
In the second step, we need to enable farmers to become 'agripreneurs', armed with the knowledge and technology needed to sustainably pilot their own farming success. My favourite example of empowering farmers in a developing country is our model village concept in India. The programme – to be rolled out across 400 villages – offers farmers a host of benefits including training and tools to boost their agricultural productivity and access to markets.
The third element is an increased focus on climate-smart solutions. One example is our work to reduce methane gas emissions from rice cultivation. Standard rice growing methods rely on much water, and – due to favourable conditions for anaerobic bacteria in waterlogged soil – this generates around four times the amount of methane emissions as wheat and maize. We have developed a range of rice solutions; these include hybrid seeds, new crop protection products, technology and training, and also climate-smart features requiring less water and emitting less methane.
Another way forward for a greener revolution is to enhance health through better nutrition. With one-third of the world’s children not growing to their full potential due to insufficient nutrition, biofortification is one important way to boost a crop’s nutrient uptake of zinc, iron and iodine.
The last step of the five-point plan focuses on expanding collaborations with a stronger focus on execution. While the private sector continues to invest in science, products and services to help enhance food security and rural development, wider challenges – such as insufficient education and training; political and economic instability; poor infrastructure; as well as loose legal frameworks – call for the collective efforts of all multi-stakeholders.
Liam Condon is chief executive of Bayer CropScience