Together with farmers, we’re working to make farming more efficient. Around one third of the total land area of our planet is used for growing crops and rearing livestock. But as the global population increases, we mustn’t increase the amount of land given over to feed them. To do so would destroy the habitat of plants and animals and reduce the vital biodiversity of our planet. Here are our ideas on how farming can protect biodiversity.
People remember the aurochs only from books. It was as tall as a man and weighed half a ton. In the 17th
century, the aurochs was made extinct due to man's need for more farmland.
When natural habitats are destroyed, plant and animal species can vanish forever. Reducing genetic diversity limits our ability to breed healthy new plants.
Stopping this destruction depends on the productivity of existing fields. If we are able to increase yields, then we won't need more land for crops.
At Bayer CropScience, we are working hard to increase yields by developing products to control plant diseases, weeds and pests and by systematically enhancing plants. For example, we have developed hybrid varieties of several crop plants which produce much higher yields.
Read the manual
Some people just don't like reading instructions. They prefer to try things out. It would be disastrous if a farmer did this because the effect of a crop protection product depends largely on being used properly.
Market authorization for a crop protection product is given only after extensive testing. This results in precise instructions for use. That's why we make good agricultural practices the focus of our training initiatives. Farmers who work this way are helping useful insects, pollinators and birds and preserving the biodiversity on their land.
We believe in sustainability. If farmland is to be useful in the long term, we need to manage it accordingly.
Crop rotation, where farmers grow different crops each year according to a specific plan, uses the nutrients in the soil in a more balanced way. Catch crops are planted between the main crops to preserve soil fertility. At the same time, one crop can also provide nutrients for the following crop. Soybeans, for example, are an extremely good source of nitrogen.
Another advantage of crop rotation is that it makes life difficult for species-specific pests because they find it hard to cope with this kind of variety.
Our Forward Farming project brings the likes of marigolds, cornflowers, phacelia and white mustard to the edge of cornfields. The flowers are not merely beautiful: they attract useful insects. Biologists counted 58 bee and 14 butterfly species in the first year alone, showing that biodiversity and intensive farming are not mutually exclusive.
We have demonstrated the same thing on our two test farms in southern England. Since 2003, we have been utilizing certain areas there as habitats for a wealth of flora and fauna. The farms feature hedges, wildflower meadows, ditches and earth walls to attract all kinds of birds, bats, brimstone butterflies, bees, bumblebees and many other species.
We aim to bring this Forward Farming concept with its combination of productive agriculture and biodiversity to the rest of Europe soon.
Bayer employee Fred Klockgether (left) and beekeeper Günter Dräger checking the health of honey bees.
When it comes to beneficial insects, bees are in a class of their own. Scientists estimate that a good third of all crops depend directly or indirectly on animal pollinators such as bees. The value of their activity is put at more than 150 billion US-dollars according to the Global Nature Fund.
In 2012, we initiated our Bee Care Program to investigate the interaction between bees and agriculture. As part of the program, we have opened Bayer Bee Care Centers in Germany and the United States to serve as platforms for both science and communication. They will also be the focal points for all existing and future bee care projects realized by Bayer companies in cooperation with external partners.
Not all biodiversity is welcome. A newly migrated species can seriously disrupt a finely balanced ecosystem, especially if they have no natural predators in their new home. Invasive plants can destroy other species and reduce the overall biodiversity.
The threat may even extend to humans: the common ragweed came to Europe from America and can trigger allergies in some people; mosquitoes could also spread to new areas as a result of global warming, bringing with them dangerous pathogens.
The corn rootworm is another invasive species. Having arrived in Europe just 20 years ago, it is now spreading across the continent, much to the horror of corn farmers.
The authorities and the farming industry are doing all they can to combat these invasive species and we are providing the support they need.