DECATUR, Ill. — An agricultural input company has set a goal to reduce its environmental impact by 30% by 2030.

Bayer aims to achieve this by developing new technologies, scaling down crop protection volumes, and enabling more precise applications. This will help to restore and retain biodiversity, combat climate change and make the most efficient use of natural resources.

Andy Knepp, Bayer director of environmental strategy and industry advocacy, said at the Farm Progress Show that sustainability is more than just a catchphrase for his company.

“For us as a company, sustainability is embedded into how we develop products.” Knepp said. “As we look at what we’re doing in our research pipeline, as we think about new biotechnology products – new seed treatments, biologicals, microbials, any of those things – we’re looking at what are the environmental benefits, how do they help farmers do what they do well, which is grow corn and soybeans, how do we help farmers do what they need to do in a way that’s actually more sustainable,” he said.

“So, it is really very much embedded into who we are as an organization. And really if we think about technology and innovation from a long term perspective, it’s always with the eye towards how do we get better, how do we use less resources so that we have the smallest impact on the environment, understanding that there are still a lot of mouths to feed.”

Concerns about how the food is grown and the environment provides a major opportunity for agriculture.

“We view farmers as stewards of the land. Most farmers I think would also view themselves that way. We look at the opportunity today to really work closely with farmers, work closely with other interested organizations to really demonstrate how ag can actually be part of the solution to a lot of the environmental challenges, whether that would be water quality, greenhouse gas emission, or you hear a lot of discussion around climate change,” Knepp said.

“We see a huge opportunity for technology to really be the answer to a lot of the challenges we face in ag.”

Bayer has partnered with several environmental groups and growers’ associations and is among the founding members of the Soil Health Partnership.

“We are working with groups like the National Corn Growers Association to see how we can actually make sure in this conversation about soil health that we generate the data, because I think a lot of the data didn’t really exist,” Knepp said.

The data is used to answer questions about soil health, how soil health benefits farmers and the environment and what steps are needed to improve soil health.

“So, obviously, the conversation around cover crops and around reduced tillage is nothing new to farmers, but maybe in terms of how do we get the data, how do we work with farmers in a network to really drive home the benefits and really drive towards the adoption of these practices,” Knepp said.

“We see a great opportunity for ag to say, look, we know there are challenges that we face, we do see issues related to water quality and soil erosion, but here are the practices, here are the ways we can actually work to address those.

“For us, a lot of it is really working through partnerships. Bayer is just one company, we’re just one voice, we love offering products and technology, but how do those products and technologies fit into the broader context of what’s going on in our environment.”

Tom C. Doran can be reached at 815-780-7894 or tdoran@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @AgNews_Doran.

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