By Paul Schickler, President, DuPont Pioneer
This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 22.
While modern innovation transformed agriculture, helping farmers continuously adapt their operations in the face of climate change remains a top priority around the world. Today’s Global Food Security Symposium brought together agriculture industry veterans and next-generation entrepreneurs who have seen the impacts of weather volatility in the field firsthand. But the voice of the farmer must be heard to understand the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Farmers like panelist Trey Hill, a Maryland farmer who had to replant 1,000 acres of corn following this year’s cold snap, demonstrate the power of innovation applied at the local level. Hill’s fourth-generation Maryland farm is a model for sustainable management practices to increase productivity in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas – the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Novel decision services tools will help farmers like Trey have a prescriptive approach to whole-farm management, ultimately combining productive and sustainable practices to unlock the full potential of each acre.
Technology adoption and innovation have improved farming in the developed world. A U.S. farmer with advanced seed technology, a smart phone and GPS is practicing a profoundly different kind of agriculture than her great grandfather did behind a mule decades ago. But for farmers in many developing countries, the process of growing food hasn’t changed much -- a fact we cannot ignore.
In the last month, many scientific reports have called for urgent climate change policy – zeroing in on agriculture as an important place to start. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change requests immediate action to adapt food systems with emphasis on increasing productivity and resiliency across the value chain. The Chicago Council’s report went further to highlight the fact that the bulk of climate change resources have focused on mitigation. The Council calls for greater focus on agriculture and food research, including gathering and analyzing data more rigorously to support adaptation. Building capacity in developing countries will be essential to this approach, since agriculture is localized.
Farmers understand better than most the impact of climate change on food security. To truly tackle this complex challenge, we must continue to provide innovation at the local level. The impact of bringing high-quality hybrids and no-till equipment to smallholder farmers will be incredible and immediate. Recently, I spoke with smallholders in Africa and China as well as top U.S. producers. While they have very different operations, each wants to increase productivity and resiliency of each hectare.
At DuPont, we believe science can unlock innovation to bring local solutions to a global challenge. That’s why we are investing in research at the local level, like our recent research hub and insectary in Delmas, South Africa, which will bring new tools to combat local pests and harsh weather. Comprised of a network of research facilities and testing locations around the continent, local researchers and agronomists will work to bring local innovation to farmers faster.
Collaborating with global partners to develop local products and production methods is important to increase food production sustainably and effectively. Seed is only one part of the equation – holistic solutions are needed. That's why we continue to build unique collaborations with organizations like the Buffett Foundation and John Deere. Together, we will bring new products to support a conservation-based system of agriculture designed and targeted to sustainably improve the productivity of African smallholders.
While the challenge is complex, let’s continue to get solutions in the hands of local leaders, especially farmers. Meaningful lasting changes will take local innovation. Let’s not shy away from using resources to produce food. Instead, let’s use all tools available to bring the promise of food security and sustainability together.