While making the necessary progress in yield growth is essential to provide nourishment for a growing planet, Monsanto recognizes the need to achieve these gains while using fewer key resources in the process.
• Agricultural production occupies more than half of the habitable landscapes globally. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, even with crop yields growing at one percent annually, cropland area is set to expand by 175–220 million hectares to keep pace with food demand. This expansion is equivalent to an area the size of London, England, transformed to new cropland each week between today and 2030.
• Irrigation to support crop production accounts for 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals annually. The total demand for water globally is projected to increase by 41 percent through 2030. This is equivalent to filling 100,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools every day between now and 2030.
• Agricultural production involves several energy intensive steps—producing nitrogen fertilizer, pumping irrigation water, as well as planting, tilling and harvesting operations. Primary global energy demand is set to increase by 33 percent by 2030. This expansion in energy demand is equivalent to plugging in three billion, 100-watt light bulbs each day between now and 2030.
Farmers will be asked to boost yields to keep up with the growing demand for food. Yet, they will also face growing competition for natural resources and their sustainability and profitability are both linked to how efficient they are in converting land, soil and nutrients to crop outputs.
Monsanto is proud to be a founding member of Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Field to Market has risen to the challenge of comprehensively measuring the resource intensity of major row crops in the United States. Key performance indicators measured by Field to Market include land use, climate impact, energy use, irrigated water use and soil loss.
Employing a three year rolling average of Field to Market data and analytical methods for 2010, farmers in the U.S. are tracking ahead of pace to achieve the goal of one-third less key resources per unit of crop output. U.S. cotton farmers have reduced average resource intensity by 23 percent. Soybean and corn farmers are 19 percent and 14 percent more resource efficient versus the year 2000 baseline observations.
Monsanto is supporting efforts to document similar data and analytical methods in additional countries. Over the past year, multi-stakeholder efforts in Canada and Spain have issued reports that largely align to the Field to Market effort in the United States. Moreover, Monsanto is consistently voicing its support for more robust efforts to collect data on a global basis that would allow for more consistent monitoring of resource-use intensity levels in agricultural production systems.
The full McKinsey & Company report can be read here.
More information on Monsanto’s commitments to sustainable agriculture can be found at Improving Agriculture, Improving Lives.
This article is excerpted from Monsanto’s 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report. The full report can be found at Monsanto.com.