WATER AND THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE
The world’s water crisis is real and growing more so by the day. Indeed, climate change, a surging global population and heightened demands on agriculture and industry have made water scarcity one of the biggest challenges facing mankind.
Nowhere is this crisis more acute than in agriculture, which is currently responsible for over 70 percent of the world’s water intake. To put this in perspective, India, the world’s secondlargest food producer, has just half the water it will need for agriculture by 2030. China, which rank No. 1 in terms of agricultural output, are facing a similar dilemma.
In fact, many countries are in the same predicament. Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced a shocking forecast for Ukraine - according to its data, the country can soon lose up to 70% of the crop due to increasingly frequent droughts. Meteorologists say that annually Ukraine lacks 150-200 mm of precipitation to provide agriculture with sufficient moisture.
All told, in less than 12 years, our current water supplies will only satisfy 60 percent of the world’s demand.
The straits are dire but certainly not insurmountable. And there’s no question that we in the global agriculture industry need to take the leadership position in ensuring we have enough water to sustain life and enrich the planet. While solving the water crisis will take a collaborative approach across all industries, governments and civil society organizations, the largest role and responsibility lies with us who are charged with feeding the world. It’s imperative that we own up to it.
And I believe it starts with a change in perspective. For our part in the agriculture industry we need to put our focus behind four critical and integrated actions and investments that could serve as a blueprint for worldwide water security and economic opportunity.
First, our industry will need more investments in seed enhancements that produce higheryielding, and more drought-, disease- and pest-resistant crops. Targeted breeding through revolution new CRISPR-CAS technology, for instance, has the potential to revolutionize crop productivity while satisfying the world’s demand for fresh, wholesome and nutritional food. Corteva Agriscience™ is a leader in the field of CRISPR-CAS for the development of agricultural products, and we collaborate with others to further the science and expand the adoption of CRISPR-CAS across all crops around the world. In traditional breeding, Dupont Pioneer, legacy of Corteva Agriscience™, has been working on drought tolerant corn for over 50 years. Optimum® AQUAMAX® hybrids designed to survive stress in water limited environments: its root system is highly efficient, its kernels are deep, and the stomata on its leaves release minimal water when the plant respires. A er a limited launch in 2014, AQUAMAX corn is now grown on close to 300 000 ha across Ukraine. In field tests AQUAMAX yields are from 2 to 8 percent greater (depend from segment) than the next best commercially available variety of corn in drought conditions.
Second, we’ll need more investments in digital solutions to help farmers optimize their operations down to the sub-acre level. It’s not just about better weather data solutions but also better information about soil conditions, nutrient levels, crop protection needs and landuse patterns that all play into more efficient farming and better stewardship of water.
Third, we’re going to need more boots on the ground to work with local farmers and rural areas to better manage their water resources. For example, in Ukraine we constantly provide financial support with irrigation systems for those growers whom we are partnering with for our seeds production.
And fourth, we’ll need to cast a wider net and provide an open-source collaboration and innovation platform that brings the best ideas forward, both inside and outside our industry. For large brands like Corteva Agriscience™, we have the power to convene the best and brightest players across our value chain, from our suppliers and retailers to the food and beverage companies that we interact with every day.
Additionally, all of us must engage more actively with regulators and NGOS who will help shape the future of water security. Opting out is not an option. Nearly every business sector will be impacted, whether a company is working to improve its own water efficiency or selling products and services to help others do so.
The good news is that we have the mindpower and imagination to create a brave new world of agriculture. Now, we must match that with the will to do so through strategic investments and good old-fashioned dirt under our fingernails.
SERGII KHARIN Country Leader – Ukraine, Corteva Agriscience™, Agriculture Division of Dowdupont