WA­TER AND THE FU­TURE OF AGRI­CUL­TURE

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Agricultura -

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

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