Category Archives: Industry News

Warming climate brings ‘existential challenges’ to agriculture

The warming climate means we should expect more floods, more droughts and a decline in some important crop nutrients, but good soil management practices may mitigate some of the worst effects.

So said two scientists at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s final Ag Tech Professional Forum for 2019, capping a year of forums examining how climate change affects agriculture.

Robert Beach, Ph.D., senior economist and fellow at RTI International, discussed research that shows a decline in levels of zinc, iron, and protein in many food crops due to increased CO2 levels.

Rising CO2 levels may slow or reverse nutritional gains across all regions, but the effect is worse in many developing countries in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Beach noted that two billion people are already deficient in one or more of these nutrients. Falling levels of protein in rice, he added, have resulted in “major implications for food security.”

In addition, rising CO2 levels affect both the quality and quantity of food, although there are wide variations across geographies, crop types and climate models.

Beach did offer some hope that increasingly sophisticated agricultural practices may mitigate some of the effects of climate change.

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Farmers learn the science of soil health at Clemson conference

Healthy crops begin with healthy soil and researchers with the Clemson University’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program are teaching farmers how they can benefit from keeping their soils fit.

The researchers teamed up with other agricultural professionals and farmers who have implemented soil health principles by using cover crops, no till and livestock integration to hold a conference to teach about soil health and tools to use to promote healthy soil.

“Soil is one of the most precious resources we have,” said Geoff Zehnder, Clemson SARE coordinator and co-organizer. “We depend on soil for our livelihoods and we must learn how to keep soil healthy so that it will continue to work for us.”

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Nestle, Kellogg among companies forming biodiversity initiative

Nestle S.A., Kellogg Co. and Danone S.A. are among 19 companies that have partnered with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to launch an initiative to protect and restore biodiversity within their supply chains and product portfolios. The coalition, called “One Planet Business for Biodiversity,” launched Sept. 23 at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

Also known as the OP2B, the initiative will focus on three pillars: scaling up regenerative agriculture practices, boosting cultivated biodiversity and diets through product portfolios, and eliminating deforestation/enhancing the management, restoration and protection of natural ecosystems.

“The global food and agricultural ecosystem is critically dependent on biodiversity: from soil regeneration through to water filtration, pest control and pollination, among many of the other building blocks of life on earth,” said Emmanuel Faber, chairman and chief executive officer of Paris-based Danone. “According to many recent scientific studies, we have 10 years to reset our course and bend the curve on climate change and wild and cultivated biodiversity loss. We need a collective effort now.”

Other OP2B members are Balbo Group, Barry Callebaut, Firmenich, Google, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Kering, Livelihood Funds, L’Oreal, Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Mars, Inc., Migros Ticaret, McCain Foods, Royal DSM, Symrise AG, Unilever and Yara International ASA. The 19 companies sell products in more than 120 countries and have combined total revenues of about $500 billion.

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ESMC Finds Potential Demand for Ecosystem Market Credits Approaches $14 Billion
Potential purchases of U.S. ecosystem credits from agriculture could be as high as $13.9 billion according to an IHS Markit economic assessment released today by the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC). The study sought to determine the extent of market demand for credits that American farmers and ranchers can generate through establishing and maintaining conservation practices that provide quantified ecosystem benefits. The Economic Assessment was released at the September 24 Farm Foundation Forum on “Incentivizing Conservation Agriculture.”

“The Informa assessment confirms ESMC’s conviction that there is substantial demand for ecosystem services from farmers and ranchers. ESMC is building a voluntary market to monetize those outcomes for producers, using science-based approaches to increase and measure soil organic carbon, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve water quality and water use efficiency,” said ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed. “This study demonstrates conclusively the demand for the ecosystems services marketplace ESMC will launch in 2022. Through the ESMC marketplace, farmers and ranchers will receive payments for the environmental benefits they provide, and corporate and public entities will be able purchase credits to meet their sustainability goals.”  Read the full press release here.

Enhancing the contribution of family farmers to sustainable development

Family farmers need enabling public policies and legal frameworks that will “allow them to adapt and flourish in today’s changing environment” and maximize their contribution to sustainable development, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said on Tuesday.

He made the remarks at the launch of the UN Decade of Family Farming on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

The event saw the participation of the heads of FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which lead the implementation of the Decade, co-organizers Costa Rica and France, as well as La Via Campesina, the World Rural Forum and the World Farmers’ Organization among others.

“We need to reform our food systems and link the activities of the Decade of Family Farming with the Decade of Action on Nutrition. Family farmers are the ones who produce healthy foods. They can save us from the epidemic of obesity, and we need them for healthy diets,” Graziano Da Silva said.

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Ethical Corporation Magazine-Saving Our Soils

This month we have a fresh look for the magazine and a fresh angle on one of the most important issues facing responsible business, the sustainability of our food and agriculture systems.

Rather than the hi tech side of climate-smart agriculture, this month’s magazine looks at the companies, NGOs, and multi-stakeholder organisations, that aim to feed the world sustainably through regenerative agriculture methods and boosting soil health.

Amy Brown provides an overview of the challenges with food security and nutrition at risk from climate change, biodiversity loss and a world population that is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. She also features the farmers who are ploughing a new furrow of regenerative agriculture in the US, and looks at what is behind the growing plant-based diets movement.

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AGU19 Accepting Abstracts This Week

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is accepting abstracts for a session entitled, Advances in Soil Health: Characterizing the Biogeophysical Components of Sustained Productivity in Managed Soils, for its Fall Meeting 2019.

B005 – Advances in Soil Health: Characterizing the Biogeophysical Components of Sustained Productivity in Managed Soils

Soil management practices that enhance organic matter content, minimize disturbance, and promote soil biology are increasingly viewed as critical strategies to both sequester carbon and improve soil productivity. This session will explore how soils change mechanistically under conservation practices, the implications of those changes for the productivity of working lands, and impacts on elemental budgets at farm- to global-spatial scales.

The session welcomes contributions that advance the scientific underpinnings of the soil health concept. Topics may include: links between soil physical and microbial community development, pore versus aggregate perspectives on soil structural development, soil impacts of pesticides and other inputs, and greenhouse gas implications of improved soil health. Contributions across the physical, biological, and geochemical disciplines of soil health are welcome.

For information on writing the abstract, link here.

To submit an abstract, link here.

Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Across Asset Classes

“Soil Wealth” is what we call the constellation of benefits associated with building both soil health and community wealth through regenerative agriculture.

As the investment community in the United States, particularly within the fields of sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investing, shows an increasing appetite for investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems across asset classes, a subset of investors is demonstrating growing interest in financing not simply “sustainable” agriculture but agriculture that is deemed explicitly “regenerative.”

What “regenerative” means for farmers and investors remains highly in flux, but broadly it refers to holistic approaches to agricultural systems that work with natural systems to restore, improve, and enhance the biological vitality, carrying capacity, and “ecosystem services” of farming landscapes. Regenerative farming operations also aim to support the resilience of the rural communities and broader value chains in which they are situated.

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Terraton Initiative to Pay Farmers to Bank Carbon in the Soil

Start-up agtech company Indigo Agriculture has put the agriculture sector in the unusual position of climate savior with its recently announced Terraton Initiative: a global effort to remove one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to enrich agricultural soils.

Boston-based Indigo Ag, earning the top spot on CNBC’s 2019 Disruptor 50 List, is counting on farmers like Will Harris of White Oak Pastures in Georgia to unlock agriculture’s potential as part of the solution to climate change. The grass-fed cattle at Harris’ 3200-acre farm sequester more carbon than they produce, as TriplePundit reported last month.

The regenerative agriculture practices that Harris deploys helps to pull carbon from the air and store it in the soil as well as make the land more resilient to extreme weather events. Methods include no-till, cover cropping, crop diversity, integrating livestock and maintaining a living root year-round.

“The ability to sequester carbon in the soil is the only thing that can take place at the right scale to solve a one trillion-ton problem, and it’s executable today; it does not depend on moonshot technology, and it’s reasonably affordable. It just comes down to us; if as a society we make a decision, we can do this,” David Perry, Indigo CEO told AgFunder News.

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