Sustainability of corn and apples

I can finally post some interesting tidbits from my Chicago trip a few weeks ago covering BASF’s Agriculture Summit.

One that caught my attention is the use of their Eco-Efficiency Analysis tool this time within the agriculture sector. This tool, which was developed by BASF to measure the sustainability of products and production processes and is one of BASF’s main tools for implementing its sustainability strategy, was mostly being used in their chemicals businesses.

BASF announced at the summit that they have just completed their sustainability analysis of corn production, one that uses their fungicide Headline┬« compared to one without the fungicide. Their result conclude that farmers who uses fungicide (in this case, BASF’s) were able to reduce costs, energy use and resources.

“Corn farmers can earn more with Headline and protect the environment at the same time as no additional arable land is needed to achieve higher yields.” – Dr. Peter Eckes, President of BASF Plant Science.

By the way, as water conservation is one of the most important aspect of sustainability these days, BASF announced that they are expecting the launch of the first ever biotechnology-based drought-tolerant corn by 2012, which is being developed in partnership with Monsanto.

According to Peter Eckes,38% of total global land is experiencing drought, while irrigated land already accounts for 40% of the global food production.He said that 70% of world fresh water goes into farming….very interesting!

“For soybeans, without using genetically modified crops, farmers would need additional 11.4m acres of land to achieve same amount of yield. This would produce a carbon emission equivalent to 6.94m cars.” – Peter Eckes.

Because of plant biotechnology, Eckes said corn productivity in the US was up 40% and soybean productivity up 30% compared to yields from 20 years ago. Energy used in farming is down 60%, while irrigated water use is down 20-50% at the same time frame.

Back to their Eco-Efficiency Analysis, the company also used this tool to compare organic apples vs conventional apples. See video below:

Lastly, BASF also announced at the summit the findings of their survey about farmland stewardship, which, according to BASF, is alive and thriving in the US. 400 consumers and growers across the US were asked to provide an opinion of farmland stewardship topics to identify gaps in perceptions among consumers, growers and pesticide manufacturers.

Participants were asked to measure the level of importance placed on certain characteristics and agriculture industry priorities when making decisions about crop inputs. Here are some of the key findings of the survey:

  • Both growers and consumers feel that farmland stewardship practices are better now than 10 years ago, and will continue to improve during the next 10years.

  • Consumers think growers place more emphasis on environmental impact when they select pesticides than growers report of their own behavior indecision making.

  • Consumers feel that growers are receiving crop inputs from trustworthy sources.Growers place top priority on effectiveness and cost when selecting a pesticide input.

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