By Martha Schlicher
Global Stakeholder Engagement Lead
Environmental factors – weather, weeds and bugs – have always presented some of the most significant challenges that farmers face every single growing season. Today, climate change has emerged as one of the greatest environmental risks facing our food supply. It will take heightened collaboration and innovation to help farmers adapt to the uncertainty that weather volatility presents, so that we can continue to count on them to give us choices for balanced meals, every meal, every day.
One of the most powerful tools we have to minimize the impact of climate change is modeling – developing insights from multiple sources of information to help all of us better understand today’s climate and inform farmers on strategies they might take to improve performance as environmental conditions continue to change. This important area of research collaboration was a part of the focus of a roundtable discussion today in Washington D.C., part of the White House Climate Data Initiative.
Every day, growers must balance a daunting dilemma as they strive to make certain there is enough food for all of us: they must address the impact of increasing weather extremes while also working to minimize their own environmental footprints to help mitigate climate change.
These climate challenges for growers are bigger than any single company or organization can address. Recognizing this, Monsanto has openly shared data to help with analysis of how plants respond to weather extremes, water availability and changing weather scenarios with the broader community of researchers focused in this area, and we’ve loaned some of our top modeling scientists to collaborative projects to help improve the quality of a wide range of models.
This modeling data is critical for us to better predict what we all need to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Our collaborations have helped the modeling community identify areas of progress and areas where further research is needed. These efforts are just a first step, but we are committed to continuing partnerships with the White House Climate Data Initiative and others to continue advancement of climate change research.
A few examples of the collaborative efforts Monsanto has supported include:
- University of Chicago research compared the impact of the 2012 drought relative to the last significant drought in 1988. That original research showed the positive impact of more tools for farmers. If farmers in the 2012 drought had been limited to the same agronomic choices they had in 1988, production would have been reduced by 25 percent. Monsanto has recently extended this work to understand the impact that changes in water availability could have on North American crop production.
- Monsanto has provided corn yield testing data to public modeling efforts to help improve the modeling predictability for how corn will respond to changes in climate and water availability.
- Monsanto is partnering company scientists with a number of external scientists to improve one of the newest publicly available corn-growth simulation models.
In addition to Monsanto’s commitments, our division The Climate Corporation is providing Climate Basic, a free online and mobile service that helps farmers identify the impact of recent and current weather conditions on their fields. This service helps farmers make more informed decisions in the face of more volatile weather. To enable development of additional data science-driven tools and services to help farmers increase production to meet increasing global demand, the company helped launch the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA), an open-source software project to ensure farmers have full data access across different agriculture technology platforms. The Climate Corporation also has committed resources to support OADA’s work, as well as code development to enable farmers to fully leverage their data.
All of these collaborative efforts are aimed at helping farmers and society keep up with the challenges that are presented by climate change. It is hoped that these efforts will contribute to broader understandings and better inform decisions on investments and actions that will be required for the world’s food systems to be more resilient to climate change.
We are pleased to collaborate with others in the public and private sectors to make a difference and help advance this important cause in agriculture. Monsanto is committed to continued collaboration and communication with White House Climate Data Initiative participants and other partners to help ensure the future of our food supply.