Production Blog

Bayer Tackles Sustainable Topics

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Short stature corn is a new product Bayer Crop Science is proposing as a way to better utilize inputs and endure adverse weather such as derechos. Corn on right is short stature corn being tested at Bayer's Jerseyville, Illinois, research farm. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Climate change may be controversial to some, but Bayer isn't shying away from the topic.

During the company's Future of Farming Dialogue, Liam Condon, President of the Crop Science division of Bayer, called climate change "the biggest challenge facing agriculture today." The virtual event was held Oct. 13.

Bayer has traditionally brought journalists from around the world to their headquarters in Monheim, Germany, for this event. DTN and Progressive Farmer have regularly attended, which often opened doors to discussions on broad, global agricultural issues.

During this year's event, Condon noted how the COVID-19 virus changed the delivery of the event, but also brought a more serious focus to a vision or motto "Health for All and Hunger for None" that company adopted as a theme just prior to the pandemic.

"I think particularly at a time like this, it becomes very clear and that we've got some very basic needs that need to be looked after. And, of course, health and nutrition are amongst the most basic needs that we have," said Condon.

He recognized that a goal of no hunger is lofty. "Unfortunately, not everybody can eat. And the element of 'hunger for none' in our vision has actually become even more pressing now with the COVID-19 challenge that we're all facing," he said.

Condon highlighted ways the company is moving forward on sustainability commitments. The discussion focused on how to build more resilient food systems, accelerate sustainable-driven innovations and develop new business models that can reward farmers for their services to the ecosystem.

Some recent products and initiatives highlighted included:

-- An externally developed model that can measure the environmental impact of any crop protection product in any crop around the world. So far, the company has used this model to screen its entire portfolio and its uses around the world to understand the sustainability implications.

-- The launch of the Bayer Carbon Initiative (…) to help growers generate revenue for adopting specific climate-smart practices. Bayer sees a carbon-zero future for agriculture through a science-based and collaborative pilot program that can develop more value to farmers through expansion in the U.S. and Brazil and other world regions. Read a DTN article about the program here:…

-- The recent introduction of a new short stature corn product in Mexico that has been branded Vitala (….) The overall height of the corn is less than traditional hybrids -- allowing easier application of inputs and reduced exposure to green snap and wind events such as the recent derecho that cut through the Midwest. Research and trials are ongoing with the goal of introducing Vitala to other markets.

-- The Better Life Farming Alliance (…), an initiative led by Bayer to empower smallholder farming communities. Together with partners, this alliance provides, know-how, inputs, financial solutions and market access to them. This year saw the expansion of support to Indonesia and Bangladesh and new banking services in India. Bayer also provided seeds and crop protection inputs along with market assistance and support for health and safety needs due to COVID-19 for smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Better Life Farming is also testing and implementing gender-smart approaches and creating new job opportunities for youth.

For more information on these efforts and others -- including commitments to reduce field greenhouse gas emissions produced by key crops and reduce the overall environmental footprint of crops -- go to….

Integrating sustainability into the core of the business is all part of becoming part of the solution for climate change, Condon said. During a question and answer session, DTN asked Condon to address the fact that many U.S. farmers have long been skeptical that climate change exists.

Condon confessed that when he started at Bayer he was warned not to talk about climate change in the U.S., but rather to discuss "erratic weather patterns." He said discussions with farmers have led him to believe that farmers get that weather patterns have changed. Rather, he sees their main concern is how much regulation might come with governments trying to intervene to address those changes.

"Farmers often feel they are overregulated as it is and more regulations will make their lives even more difficult," Condon said. "But the reality is, every farmer is on the front lines of, whether you call it climate change or erratic weather. They see it most and they feel it every day in their fields. They are the ones that really need our help," he said.

He added that farmers who adopt technologies that are more drought tolerant or flood resilient can actually help mitigate what is happening on the climate side. Being paid for carbon sequestration and similar programs can help encourage farmers to adopt practices. "Farmers always want to adopt the right practices, but they want to be paid fairly for it," Condon said.

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