Monsanto’s Jeff Seale on Climate-Smart Data Collection

Seale talks about data and adopting the digital tools associated with modern agriculture.

(Originally published on

Q&A with Jeff Seale

Knowledge is power when pursuing climate-smart practices in modern agriculture. By using data and adopting the digital tools, innovative practices, and advancements associated with modern agriculture, farmers can help feed the world while using fewer natural resources. Monsanto (No. 39 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) is committed to helping farmers understand which modern agriculture practices are the most impactful in reducing agriculture’s global carbon footprint.

That’s why we have participated in extensive data modeling exercises with experts, generating more than 250 million simulations to estimate the carbon benefits of specific crop production approaches. We have openly shared our data modeling, engaging in more than 100 farmer-facing forums to exchange insights.

To learn more about how about this data will be used, we sat down with Jeff Seale, Agricultural Environmental Strategy Lead and Associate Science Fellow at Monsanto.

Q. What was the purpose of running more than 250 million data modeling simulations?

We wanted to pinpoint the potential for reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by geography, soil type and farming practices. This data can help farmers better understand the choices they have for reducing their own carbon footprint while also improving soil quality and using resources more efficiently. Our models produce hyper-local information that can help a farmer in Iowa, for example, determine the carbon impact of planting a specific type of cover crop on any given section of their land.

Q. What data did you focus on?
We focused on four practices – crop rotation, tillage, cover crops and nitrogen management. These are the most important variables driving the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere through farming.

Q. How did you gather this data?

We started with a widely accepted model from the USDA and worked with a third-party ag-data firm to develop over 600 scenarios. We ran more than 250 million simulations across 12 Midwestern U.S. states, to estimate the carbon reduction, sequestration value and soil health benefits of specific crop production systems and farming practices.

Q. What can farmers do with this information?

As part of our carbon neutral commitment, we promised to make data like this available. Our plan is to share the model with farmers, so they can plug in their soil type and specific practices, and review information that they can use to develop best practices on their own farms. This has the potential not only to reduce their carbon footprint, but also improve soil health and achieve better harvests using fewer resources.

Q. How is Monsanto using this information in pursuit of carbon neutrality?
Monsanto looks to this modeling to calculate the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gases resulting from the adoption of climate-smart practices by our seed production growers. Working together with these farmers to increase the adoption of these practices can result in carbon emission reductions that will ultimately benefit the climate by reducing our collective carbon footprint.

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