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 Monsanto.com)


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.

Monsanto: Mark Edge on WEMA, the Fall Armyworm and farmers in Africa

Mark Edge, Director of Collaborations for Developing Countries at Monsanto, talks about WEMA, the initiative that uses Bt maize to eradicate a harmful pest and help smallholder farmers in Africa.

REUTERS

By Mark Edge

Originally Published by Monsanto.

My work at Monsanto over the years has offered me many new challenges – lately I'm working with a team on the complex issue of helping smallholder farmers in Africa get better seed to help them manage the threats to their maize crops.

The WEMA collaboration

In 2008, we entered into a public-private partnership to develop Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

WEMA is a collaborative partnership that strives to improve food security and livelihoods among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa by developing drought-tolerant and insect-resistant maize that is adapted to their conditions. Monsanto has provided the royalty-free use of technologies for these traits, so that small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa can access the newest technology in hybrid maize.

The Fall Armyworm problem

The insect-resistance trait has become increasingly important because of the destructive Fall Armyworm pest. First identified in 2016 in Africa, it has rapidly advanced across the continent making a devastating impact on maize production. With no effective natural predators, this pest rapidly reproduces and causes significant crop damage, reducing the yields needed to meet a growing demand for food, fuel and fibre.

While the Fall Armyworm is commonly found in the US and is a prominent pest in Brazil, it is new to Africa. In the US and Brazil, it is mostly controlled with genetically modified (GM) maize together with other integrated pest management practices. Unfortunately, in most of Africa, they don't yet have approvals for GM maize and their options to control the pest are mostly limited to a few pesticides which often don't work well.

The Fall Armyworm has now hurt maize yields – a staple food for over 300 million people – in over 30 African countries. Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa rely heavily on maize and produce it for direct consumption.

The solution

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that can be used to control insects and has been used as a biological foliar spray by organic farmers to control caterpillars such as Fall Armyworm.

Bt maize was introduced over 20 years ago in the US, and has been used in South Africa, South America, Asia and a few countries in Europe for more than 10 years. However, Bt as an applied biological control has been around for over 50 years, and has been used around the world by farmers and gardeners as an insect control product.

To promote understanding and acceptance of GM maize that could benefit many farmers, Monsanto collaborates with WEMA to introduce Bt maize for smallholder farmers in Africa.

This GM technology has revolutionised insect pest management and has proven to be a safe and effective way to combat pests and help ensure bountiful harvests.

Farmers plant their crops in hopes of reaping the full potential in the seeds that they purchase. Bt maize helps protect that genetic potential and minimises the negative impact of insects, and other pests, like Fall Armyworm. It is much needed and could be an excellent addition to an integrated pest management toolbox for farmers in Africa.

Monsanto Company Chairman, Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant Announces Intent to Leave Monsanto Upon Closing of Bayer Acquisition

Over his 35-year tenure with the company, he has worked for Monsanto on three continents, managing key elements of the global business and helping to diversify the company's products and solutions for growers.

REUTERS

Monsanto Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant announced today his intent to leave Monsanto at the closing of the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer AG. Grant will maintain his position as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer until closing, continuing to focus on leading the company on its top objectives of securing deal approval and delivering on its underlying business priorities. Bayer continues to target closing in the second calendar quarter of 2018.

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