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Farmers are essential part of solution to climate change

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Megan Kelly |
Michael Lohuis
Interview   Michael Lohuis, Agricultural Environmental Strategy Lead, Monsanto:

In the global efforts to stop climate change, agriculture can contribute a great deal. Michael Lohuis, Ph.D., Agricultural Environmental Strategy Lead at Monsanto, explains the importance of farmers' contribution to carbon neutral economy.

POST: Monsanto announced bold plans in the fight against climate changes. Do you think that broad public realizes how much potential lies in agriculture and how much farmers can contribute to slow down climate changes?

Mr. Lohuis: The role that agriculture can play in combating climate change has been recognized by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] as well as many scientists worldwide, but is only now starting to be realized more broadly. The IPCC has stated that global agriculture is quite capable of mitigating up to 1.59 billion metric tons of CO2e (30% of the global total) by 2030.

We have worked with outside experts in data science on extensive modeling in the USA corn belt that shows that the right practices and innovations allow crops to be grown in a way that is carbon neutral.

POST: Agriculture is uniquely positioned to deliver climate change solutions. Can you elaborate a bit more and give us few examples?

Mr. Lohuis: Agriculture can help mitigate climate change by reducing the net emission of greenhouse gases in multiple ways: increase the productivity per unit of land or head of livestock in order to reduce or even halt agricultural expansion into forests or grasslands and reduce the intensity of water, feed, fuel, fertilizer and pesticide use per unit of food produced.

That includes practices such as the planting of cover crops and conservation tillage, precision agriculture and data analytics, among others. Agriculture can also adapt to climate change by adopting practices and breeding for crops that provide more resilience to droughts and floods and use resources like water and nutrients more efficiently.

POST: Can any company make a significant progress in that field without the support of farmers?

Mr. Lohuis: Farmers are an essential part of the solution to climate change, in part because the vast land area operated by today’s farmers provides the means to achieve a scalable solution. They have been, and will continue to be, a positive force in mitigating climate change, enriching our soil and protecting our waterways.

Great progress has already been made by farmers, but, to sustainably feed 9.6 billion people by 2050, we must work collectively to do even more. A farmer’s role in carbon neutral crop production is the use of the best management practices and innovations for producing crops.

That means a combination of practices that can have a positive impact on the mitigation of climate change and includes practices such as the planting of cover crops and conservation tillage, among others. Many farmers have already adopted these sustainable practices and it is our goal to first address our own carbon footprint while promoting the use of these practices more broadly.

POST: Talking about carbon footprint, is it bigger in developed countries or in developing countries, for example in Africa?

Mr. Lohuis: Ag emissions are coming from all over the world and types of GHG’s emitted differ depending on the type of agriculture practiced.

According to IPCC 5th Assessment Report, the largest emissions from croplands and animals are currently coming from Asia, OECD countries, whereas largest indirect emissions from land use change (deforestation) are coming from Asia and Latin America. Regardless, all countries have great potential and a significant role to play in helping agriculture move towards carbon neutrality.

POST: Will Monsanto establish some kind of consultancy service for farmers interested in lowering carbon footprint in their production?

Mr. Lohuis: To date, Monsanto has commissioned studies that lead us to believe that some crops on some farms can be produced in a carbon neutral fashion. We intend to share those studies with the scientific and agricultural communities so that our findings can be evaluated and applied.

We are also supporting work on tools that will allow individual farmers to evaluate the impact their farming practices have on their carbon footprint. We are exploring how best to make this information available to farmers.


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