Partnerships Aug. 30, 2022

Showing Our Work: The Data Around Climate-Smart Farming

Read more about the groundbreaking AgMission and Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) co-sponsored study here, under the leadership of The Ohio State University (OSU) Professor Rattan Lal (OSU release here).

Climate-smart farming starts and ends with good data.

There are certain practices we know drive a more robust, sustainable environment and healthier soils. Conservation or strip tillage, crop rotation, the usage of cover crops – these practices are ones that we know enhance soil organic carbon (SOC) levels in the soil. But we also know there is a lot of variability in the SOC sequestration potential due to soil types, the environment and other agronomic management decisions. To drive on-farm impact for growers and for society, we are committed to improving the knowledge base.Our long-term sustainability trials will be one piece of a larger puzzle in understanding the effects of carbon-smart farming practices on soil health and farm productivity.

What we know about the specific and measurable effects of carbon-smart farming practices on the soil is growing every season, but it just scratches the surface of what’s possible. This is the backbone rationale behind our 10-year sustainability trials, started in 2021, and is the essence of what we’re best at: using well-characterized trials at scale to generate the data we need to improve on-farm decision making, drive a deeper knowledge of soil health and quantify the positive impact agriculture on the planet .

Both we and our customers benefit from an accurate understanding of how farming practices affect soil, especially important since a decision made for this year’s growing season has the potential every year to affect farm operation decisions for years to come. 

The stakes are high for our internal research: the advent and ramp-up of the Bayer Carbon Initiative and the recent launch of the Bayer ForGround platform are indicative not only of the societal attention on regenerative agriculture and the potential for farming to play a big role in being part of the solution to climate change, but additionally to generate real business value and new partnerships across the food value chain, from our own business, to farmers, and to partnering companies focused on meeting sustainability goals..

I’m personally a big champion of public-private research partnerships, in which private research data can leveraged toward an even broader good.

This is why I’m particularly pleased for Bayer’s donation of our 10-year sustainability trial data to become part of the FFAR- and AgMission-sponsored, OSU-led study on the environmental effects of soil management practices. Not only will this study be led by OSU and its partner to further our understanding overall, but it’s in good hands and led by Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished Professor of Soil Science and Recipient of the 2020 World Food Prize.

We understand that tillage practices – from conventional to conservation and everywhere in between – can have significant impacts on soil health in the short and long term. Our sustainability trials are designed to quantify those effects as the trials are designed in tillage blocks season after season.

Under the auspices of this study, in a way rarely possible at this scale, researchers at partner universities will work to better quantify the SOC-sequestering effects of farm practices, in the context of real farm operations and the real challenges farmers face every year.

The effects of our – and other industry partner – participation in this study are numerous. Not only do researchers gain the benefit of access to well-characterized, diverse research data, but the value for the broader scientific community is immense. Data analyzed in this study becomes public, and publishable, which builds a rich database and new knowledge to enhance  soil and environmental science for years to come.

From the perspective of society and public policy, the benefits also extend well beyond enabling our customers to make informed decisions for their operations. Those responsible for public policy decisions can, as a simple example, use this data to drive programs that potentially incentivize the adoption of climate-smart farming practices.

We’re in a unique position in conducting the research that we do. I celebrate our ability to facilitate and enable this exciting opportunity for OSU and other partner universities; we have the potential to leverage our expertise in digital tools, the use of advanced farming technologies and approaches to collaboratively address knowledge gaps and advance critical science towards understanding how agriculture can be a part of the solution to climate change. 

I’m looking forward to the insights that will come from this study as we collectively dig deeper into carbon farming.

About the Author

Kelly Gillespie serves as Vice President of Digital Ecosystem Services for Climate. Kelly leads the development of infrastructure and relationships that pave the way for new beyond-the-farm (or farm-to-fork?) value pools. Kelly’s team drives and delivers Ecosystem Services strategies for our environmental and sustainability-focused products, including carbon sequestration and water use efficiency.

Most recently, Kelly served as Crop Efficiency Portfolio Lead on the R&D Crop Team, where she focused on the global advancement of a flagship technology platform, Short Stature Corn, as well as identifying new research targets in carbon sequestration and nitrogen efficiency for gene editing and biologics. She brings a wealth of experience in translating business opportunities into clear technical strategies.

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