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Bayer seeks to balance the need for crop production and nature conservation by generating value for the grower through the (preservation and) restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services...
Bayer Crop Science aims to be a leader in sustainable agriculture and has made commitments to reduce field greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact of crop protection. These commitments have indirect benefits for biodiversity, but do not directly address the main root causes of biodiversity decline, such as land use change, fragmentation, and degradation according to IPBES 2019. To address these, Bayer is exploring ways to balance crop production and nature conservation while generating value for farmers.
In collaboration with ETH Zürich and IFPRI, Bayer has been working towards the identification of measures which balance the conservation of biodiversity and the generation of value for farmers and worked with farmers in several countries to better understand their practices and hindrances. Please see the full report and the related infographics here.
There is no one fits all solution to foster biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. However, the biggest opportunities to better balance production and conservation lie in the modifications of our cropping systems. We seek to design cropping systems that not only produce more with less, but also become more regenerative in terms of soil health and habitats and more resilient towards climate change. To explore and develop corresponding elements for those systems we work along three different pillars:
Increasing value for growers by improving soil health.
Improving soil health can generate value for growers by enabling higher yields, lower input costs or even extra income from selling carbon credits (due to additional soil carbon sequestration). Overall growers can increase their profitability and at the same time improve ecosystem services such as groundwater replenishment or nutrient availability. In our sustainability field trials in Latin America we combined regenerative agricultural practices such as no till, cover cropping and crop rotations with our products, technologies and innovations and validated the positive outcomes for both: soil health and profitability. We are exploring business opportunities in regenerative agriculture and will continue to gain experiences in soil health assessment and monitoring. To scale soil health improvements, we need strategic partnerships and have joined the Mid West Row Crop Collaborative and the Living Soils for the Americas Initiative.
Further links on soil health:
Helping farmers find the right balance between crop production and nature conservation.
We are exploring ways to support farmers in preventing land use change and preserving or reestablishing habitats to counteract the number one driver of biodiversity decline. This requires very different approaches for different regions – also considering the corresponding regulatory context. For the Brazilian Amazon/Cerrado region, Bayer recently developed a forest protection strategy where we aim to incentivize farmers who protect their forests. A dedicated group of Bayer researchers is exploring the root causes of insect decline in collaboration with external partners and research organizations such as the authors of the “Krefeld study” on Insect decline with the objective to identify the most effective countermeasures. In collaboration with two institutes in Germany, IFAB and ILN, we are evaluating how biodiversity measures such as flower strips foster the biodiversity of wild bees and butterflies in the agricultural landscape (please find out more here). On various Forward Farms we are gaining long-term practical experience with establishing biodiversity-fostering measures and are working to better connect biotopes in the agricultural landscape. To protect the Monarch Butterfly, Bayer is collaborating with conservation groups, academic experts, farmers, and government agencies to reestablish habitats in North America (learn more here). We are also exploring digital tools to support habitat creation, such as the Habitally app, and we are developing a methodology to identify underperforming field zones for habitat conversion without losing profitability (read here).
Further links on habitats and their potential benefits for farmers
Benefits for farmers and farm-ecosystems from genetic resources
Genetic diversity is vital for food security. Bayer is actively following the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and committing to its objectives to conserve, improve and share the benefits of genetic resources, which is also stated in our biodiversity position paper. To protect and conserve the genetic diversity of crops, we contribute to seed collections and gene banks such as the Centre for Genetic Resources of the Netherlands (CGN) or the United States Department of Agriculture National Plant Germplasm System (USDA-NPGS). We participate in public-private partnerships, and partner with organizations like Plant Breeders without Boarders, Fair Planet or CGIAR to empower farmers, build capacity, and create networks in plant breeding. We aim to conserve biological diversity and utilize genetic resources sustainably and fairly. Please find an overview of our recent activities here.
Bayer has been ranked the #1 chemical company regarding reduction of environmental impact and contribution towards a nature-positive future within the latest 2022 Nature Benchmark by the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA). The benchmark assesses companies through 43 indicators across three measurements areas: Governance & Strategy, Ecosystems & Biodiversity, and Nutrition. In total, Bayer has ranked 15 out of ~400 keystone companies across 8 industries that have participated in the assessment, ranking #2 in the governance and strategy area, as well as #18 in the ecosystems and biodiversity area. Further, we joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure to demonstrate our commitment to environmental stewardship, biodiversity, and sustainability. We support nature-related disclosures as a way to drive environmental progress and believe in playing an active role in delivering a financial disclosure framework that addresses nature-related risks and supports investments in nature-positive outcomes.
Bayer actively contributes towards several targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework, recently negotiated by member Governments at COP15 for the Convention on Biological Diversity for achievement of the UN sustainable development goals by 2030.
As part of our commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our crop protection solutions, we also work on improved solutions for integrated pest management (IPM). Sivanto Prime is one example of a chemical crop protection product with a very favorable pollinator and beneficials safety profile which fits well into IPM systems. We continuously work towards further improving the safety profile of our products (Crop Protection Safety Standards | Bayer). The basic requirements to do so are however dependent on a regulatory environment with predictable and effective science- and risk-based safety assessments.
Our key contribution to sustainable agriculture is the development of sustainable cropping systems where we combine our products, technologies and innovations with sustainable agricultural practices to ensure farmers profitability while improving the sustainability profile of crop production (example the ProCarbono program, see also here). Our Forward Farmer in Chile uses modern farming techniques like digital weather and irrigation monitoring, which led to significant yield increases while maintaining healthy soils and waterways and even restoring surrounding ecosystems by utilizing 1000 m2 as a garden for pollinators. Another example of our commitment to developing innovative, sustainable solutions for growers is the Smart Corn System. Combining new maize technologies with digital solutions, data-driven decision making and efficient management practices allows us to provide a modern solution for farmers that enables them to consistently achieve higher yields with fewer inputs. Simultaneously, Bayer works on improving food security and livelihoods, especially as part of our empowering smallholder farmers commitment.
We work towards conservation and utilization of genetic resources, including crops, to support food and nutrition security as well as environmental sustainability, providing benefits to society. We partner with organizations to contribute to biological diversity conservation through sharing a proportion of commercial benefits. Our genetic resource donations, research and services, and capacity building support agriculture, helping farmers with productivity and sustainability. For example, we are focused on improving crop resilience and yield potential in Africa through the Modern Breeding Project in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and have donated maize lines and technology for water-efficient maize hybrids in Africa (Project TELA) partnering with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bayer also provides support to public gene banks and Bayer also participates in the U. S. Department of Agriculture Germplasm Enhancement of Maize project (USDA-GEM) and is collaborating with the World Vegetable Center (WVC), to help secure its seed stocks.
Approvals of our biotechnology products are updated in the global plant science industry database tool BioTrade status. Through our global transparency commitments, we share the results of our GMO safety studies with the public. Further, we published a comprehensive report in 2022 to help explain our risk assessment and the benefits of Genetically Modified Crops, contributing to a facts based discourse on biotechnology. As plant breeding innovations evolve and we develop new solutions to address climate challenges whilst preserving nature and its limited resources, Bayer continues to update its resources.