Energy, especially in the form of fuel, is an essential input for all farmers, and it has become an issue for everyone involved in agriculture, as volatile fluctuations in oil prices continue and global concerns over fossil fuel emissions intensify.
New crop technologies and farming systems by Monsanto and others have helped growers achieve dramatic increases in the energy efficiency of farming and in the production of renewable fuels from U.S. crops such as corn and soybeans. The higher energy efficiencies enabled by Monsanto products and systems have come from advances in three areas: breeding, biotechnology, and agronomics/chemistry.
These higher efficiencies have meant higher yields on a generally constant cropland area, which has resulted in dramatic increases in the total U.S. supply of both corn and soybeans, allowing for more renewable fuel production from these two grain feedstocks.
Among the novel cropping systems introduced by Monsanto, the greatest improvements in farmer energy efficiencies have likely come from Roundup Ready cropping systems. The introduction of Roundup Ready crops has enabled much greater adoption of conservation tillage, which has eliminated one or more tillage operations each season—resulting in both large fuel savings and other environmental benefits—like improved soil and water quality.
Increasing U.S. crop yields, especially those in corn, have helped farmers participate directly in the development of a significant U.S.-based renewable fuel industry, which has dramatically reduced oil imports and avoided vast amounts of cumulative fossil fuel emissions.
As the world enters a more uncertain future over global energy supplies and prices, it will become increasingly important for farmers everywhere to have full access to new products and cropping systems—which now have a proven track record for improving energy efficiency and enabling greater production of renewable fuels.
This article was excerpted from Monsanto’s 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report. The full report is available on Monsanto.com.