Bayer’s ambitious corporate goal is to improve people’s lives with new scientific findings. Feeding the global population is a key part of this.
The facts are a cause for concern – some 800 million people are currently going hungry. And the global population is predicted to grow by a further two billion through 2050. To feed these people, farmers worldwide will need to increase agricultural production by 60 percent. While the population is growing, the amount of available farmland per capita is shrinking. In 1950, the figure was 5,100 m2 per person, but by 2050 we will have to make do with 2,000 m2 each – just over a quarter of the size of a soccer pitch. The situation is made even more difficult by the fact that valuable farmland is lost every year due to factors such as heat, drought, flooding, salinization, erosion and urbanization.
Bayer’s research teams and agricultural experts are addressing this global challenge on a daily basis in their laboratories and in the field. “Our employees are helping farmers all over the world with innovations and know-how,” says member of the Bayer Board of Management Liam Condon. “The common objective is to achieve consistently higher yields from the available farmland. That applies to vegetables and fruit as well as to staple foods such as rice and wheat,” he adds. Key components of the Bayer portfolio in this context include seeds, chemical and biological crop protection, services and professional advice.
While the population is growing, the amount of available farmland per capita is shrinking.
Our employees are helping farmers all over the world with innovations and know-how.
It All Starts with Seeds
Bayer scientists use conventional and new high-tech breeding techniques to develop robust plants that deliver excellent quality and high yields even under difficult conditions. In Asia, for example, which harvests 90 percent of the world’s rice, Bayer offers seeds that are better able to cope with heat, drought, flooding and salinization. In 2016, a new rice seed will be launched that can even survive being underwater for 14 days. And in 2017, a seed variety capable of tolerating twice the level of salinity that currently available seeds can cope with will be introduced. In this way, fields in Asia that might otherwise be lost as a result of climate change will still be usable for rice production in the future. Climate problems are also putting pressure on wheat yields and throwing up major challenges for Bayer. The company is therefore investing a total of EUR 1.5 billion in research and development between 2010 and 2020 to find new solutions for wheat, including the development of resistant wheat varieties that are better able to withstand heatwaves and periods of drought. It is expected that farmers will have access to hybrid wheat varieties that are more robust and produce higher yields from 2023 onward.
Bayer offers farmers chemical and biological solutions to protect important crops against various stress factors.
In addition to resistant seeds, Bayer also offers farmers chemical and biological solutions to protect important crops against various stress factors. For instance, the grain of crops such as rice, wheat and corn can be coated with a special dressing that protects the delicate seedling and gets the plant off to a good start in its initial growth phase when it is particularly vulnerable to pests and disease. Once the seedling has broken through the topsoil, weeds threaten its growth and rob it of light, nutrients and/or valuable soil moisture. Effective herbicides give plants space to develop and help them make the best possible use of the soil’s limited resources.
Bayer sees itself an all-round partner for sustainable agriculture. The company therefore not only develops innovative seed and plant protection technologies, but also trains farmers how to use them in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.
This professional advice forms an integral part of the customer-oriented portfolio and enables even small-holders to sustainable boost their yields from the existing land. Jiande Lv from the Chinese village of Daying is one example. He has been working with Bayer for seven years and is very happy with the support he receives. “I find the collaboration with my Bayer advisor very helpful. Mr. Xingyu Zhao comes here to advise us and regularly organizes training that helps us optimize our cultivation methods,” he says. This has enabled Jiande Lv to improve his yields significantly in recent years.
With its seeds, crop protection, services and advice, Bayer helps farmers all over the world increase food production – even under difficult conditions. The company is also committed to improving the nutritional value of crops. For example, it has signed up to the HarvestPlus program supported by the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This program aims to enrich staple foods with essential trace elements such as zinc. Zinc deficiency is one of the main reasons why children in developing countries fail to grow properly and thrive. Around half of the world’s farmland contains too little zinc to supply humans with the amount they need. Initial results of the joint research project show that a Bayer product called Antracol can increase the zinc content of rice.
With its wide-ranging activities, Bayer is part of a global community that is committed to supplying the human race with what it needs to survive. The company works with leading scientists and research institutes, international organizations and government bodies to make the most of the available farmland and increase production on a lasting basis. Because only a joint effort will provide the quantum leap required to feed the global population in 2050.