Sustainability is a buzzword these days as the pandemic highlights the critical connection between having a healthy society, economy and environment, particularly as the global population grows and climate change threats persist.
For farmers, however, sustainability has always been at the heart of what they do.
“Farmers are stewards of the land,” says Bryce Eger, president of Corteva Agriscience Canada. Corteva, a leading pure-play agriculture company, provides products and services to farmers, including seed, crop protection and digital solutions.
“Farmers’ whole livelihood starts and ends with sustainability,” Mr. Eger says.
Canadian farmers have a lengthy history of adapting and adopting new technologies and techniques to improve soil quality, boost crop yields and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They are increasingly leveraging data analytics and connected technologies to boost efficiency and reduce chemical and energy inputs, while embracing zero-till and min-till practices promoting soil health.
They understand what’s at stake, Mr. Eger says. “It’s not an either/or proposition of producing a lot of food or being more sustainable. It’s an ‘and,’” he says. “Farmers need to produce more food and be sustainable while making sure they’re doing what’s right for the environment.”
Doing more by using less
With the United Nations (UN) forecasting the global population could exceed 10 billion people by 2050, farmers face the difficult challenge of producing more food on fewer arable acres of land against the backdrop of various pressing environmental challenges.
And they can’t do it alone. Farmers need industry partners, particularly when it comes to sustainability. One of those partners is Corteva, a somewhat new, yet highly impactful player in global food production.
“We are a leading pure-play agricultural company, 100 per cent dedicated to agriculture,” Mr. Eger says.
Deriving its name from the Latin words for ‘heart’ and ‘nature,’ Corteva’s business is rooted in sustainability across more than 140 countries, including Canada.
“It starts with our purpose statement: To enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come,” Mr. Eger adds.
Already, Corteva’s products and services — seed, crop protection and digital solutions — are focused on optimizing sustainability. The company also has a strong track record of helping farmers be more productive, profitable and sustainable.
Like farmers, sustainability is central to Corteva’s mission, as illustrated in its 2020 Sustainability Report: In It For Good, which highlights 14 sustainability goals it aims to achieve by 2030. Notable among them is increasing crop yields by 20 per cent while reducing GHG gas emissions by 20 per cent.
As part of its focus on sustainability, Corteva has a balanced and diverse portfolio of industry-leading products, including award-winning, naturally derived products such as Qalcova™ active and Jemvelva™ active.
Used to protect against pest insects for more than 250 crops — including vegetables, fruits, corn and soybeans — both of these Corteva products received Green Chemistry Challenge awards from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency for their low impact on the environment. Other products also boost sustainably higher yields, only by other means.
“We have seed solutions like Nexera canola and Plenish soybean, which are high oleic, low linoleic products — so they produce healthy oils,” Mr. Eger notes. “What makes these sustainable is their longer shelf-life so consumers waste less.”
Empowering consumers to be more sustainable
While its primary focus is farmers, Corteva doesn’t lose sight of another important sustainability stakeholder: consumers.
The company considers public engagement critically important to building a better understanding among Canadians of agriculture’s role in sustainability. These efforts include working with organizations like Agriculture in the Classroom Canada and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, providing free resources on topics like how consumer food choices impact health and sustainability.
The company is also leading innovative plant-breeding work as a member of Protein Industries Canada that indirectly benefits consumers.
“That’s one of Canada’s federally funded research superclusters where we are leading a commercial plant breeding project to boost canola meal protein,” he says, adding that the new feedstock ultimately leads to higher-quality animal protein for consumers.
Innovation to advance sustainability goals
Sustainability is a critical focus for Corteva. It’s a key consideration in the development of new products, including biological crop protection products such as Utrisha™ N, which are an alternative to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Utrisha™ N naturally improves plant vitality by capturing nitrogen from the atmosphere and converting it to usable nitrogen at no energy cost to the plant,” Mr. Eger says.
“It’s a sustainable solution that supplies nitrogen throughout the crop cycle in an effective and controlled way, thereby reducing the need for additional fertilizer inputs, leading to lower GHG emissions.”
Other advances involve digital services facilitating precision agriculture practices so farmers can confidently use only as much input as each square metre of every acre of field requires.
“Multiply that by millions of acres across the country and you see the huge impact on sustainability.”
It’s not just a handful of products: Every new product in Corteva’s pipeline is now aimed at meeting its key sustainability criteria by 2025, based on five UN Sustainable and Development Goals and Green Chemistry principles, such as reducing GHGs and improving soil and water quality.
“We’re really putting our money where our mouth is, developing products that ensure sustainability, while helping farmers grow more with less, so we consumers always have high quality, nutritious food on our tables,” he says.
Watch this recent webinar to learn more about the role of farming in reducing the impact of climate change, and the impact of a changing environment on Canada’s agricultural industry.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Corteva. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.