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Corn+Soybean Digest

Monsanto promises more efficient water and nutrient use across 1 million acres

field irrigation
Major food companies and Walmart also made simultaneous sustainability pledges.

Monsanto pledged to increase its water-use and nutrient-use efficiency, as part of its larger ongoing sustainability commitment. It made the announcement at Walmart’s Sustainable Products Expo, an assembly of 12+ major food companies also committing to “accelerating sustainable agriculture and recycling.”

Monsanto says it will increase its irrigation water-use efficiency by 25% by 2020 in its global seed production operations, saving 30 billion to 80 billion gallons of water annually, says Hugh Grant, Monsanto chairman and chief executive officer.

As a frame of reference, a single cup of coffee requires 35 gallons of water in its production, Grant estimates.

Expanded drip irrigation use will help reach the goal, Monsanto added. Drip enables up to 95% efficiency water use, compared with other systems that range from 50 to 65% efficiency, Grant says. Monsanto has already deployed these systems at facilities in water-stressed areas like India, Hawaii and Mexico.


Nutrient efficiency pledge

Monsanto also pledged to advance “smarter seeds and precision management tools that enable farmers to use nutrients more efficiently and curb greenhouse gas emissions on 1 million U.S. acres by 2020.”

Farmers make between 40 and 50 business critical decisions during the growing season that directly impact how much they can grow and how efficiently they can do it, Grant  said. “Agriculture has the opportunity to deliver new tools to help farmers use resources more efficiently while increasing production. Monsanto pledges to work and share with farmer customers, stakeholders, industry groups and partners to help accelerate these efficiencies. Soil and nutrients are vitally important to farming.”

This effort complements other recently announced joint projects in soil health and water quality, including the Soil Health Partnership hosted by the National Corn Growers Association and co-sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation. Monsanto’s support of cover crop trials through the Agronomy Science Foundation and USDA’s Resilient Economic Agriculture Practices (REAP) initiative reinforces the company’s desire to help farmers understand the potential benefits of management practices that improve soil health, Monsanto said in a press release.

There was also mention of Monsanto continued collaboration with Climate Corp., its recently purchased weather-data and risk-management company key to its new Integrated Farming Systems platform.

Grant referenced Monsanto’s steady march toward precision farming yard by yard to improve productivity and sustainability. This focus on sustainability “becomes business as usual,” Grant said.

Monsanto will update the public annually on its progress toward the 25% goal in its sustainability updates and reports.

The venue for this announcement was Walmart’s first Sustainable Product Expo, where more than 12 global companies signed new commitments to accelerate sustainable agriculture and recycling. The pledges came from Cargill, General Mils, Campbell Soup, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Dairy Farmers of America, Walmart and Monsanto. Together, these participating suppliers represent more than $100 billion in sales at Walmart. Other groups represented were the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Wildlife Fund and Goldman Sachs.

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