Practical action on climate change

Taking action on climate change is an urgent priority at Bayer. We’re acting because farmers are on the frontline. The effects are right on their doorstep: flooding, heatwaves, drought and soil salinization can shatter life on the farm.
Climate Change
We respond on two fronts. First, we work on chemical and biological solutions to help plants toughen up and cope with the effects of climate change. Second, we fight the problem directly – by curbing the impact of both our business, and modern farming generally.

Stress relief for plants

Stress relief for plants
For almost a decade Bayer has been working intensively on plants which have marked tolerance to cold, heat and drought, can cope with very salty soil, and flourish in regions in which the soil offers few nutrients and little water.
Climate change means plants face danger, in the form of lack of nutrients or water, temperature ups and downs, or extreme weather events. And danger brings stress – just as it does for all living things.

To cope with that stress, plants use up the energy that normally fuels what they should be doing: growing strong and healthy. They end up weak – an open door to diseases and pests.

These issues are here to stay. While we’re determined to fight the causes as well as effects of climate change, we’re also realistic – and know we have to deal with the effects as farmers experience them. So we channel a lot of energy and investment into improving plant traits – helping plants cope better with the ups and downs they now face.

Boosting yields even in tough times

We used to think climate-related stress inevitably cut plant yields. But there’s good news: our Stress Shield™ technology helps plants deliver high yields even under significant stress.

And because stressed plants are vulnerable to fungal infections, we expect growing needs for effective crop protection products. Fungicides like Nativo™ are a smart option for farmers here, protecting against fungal infection as well as against drought and heat-related stress. Our Confidor™ Stress Shield™ also protects plants against the stress caused by pests.

Helping farmers fight climate change

But it’s also vital for us to attack the causes of climate change. And that means working with farmers as a team. Farming itself contributes to climate change – it’s one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide and methane, which are among the greenhouse gases partly responsible for the problem.

The positive news here is that farmers have the power to take action. By boosting yields, farmers can cut the resources they use and the emissions they produce. It’s all about getting more from less.

In fact, that process is already well underway. Without the better yields already achieved between 1961 and 2005, farming would have produced an additional 590 gigatons of CO2 equivalents. To set this in context, annual CO2 emissions worldwide currently total slightly more than 30 gigatons.

Crop protection cuts CO2

By boosting yields and keeping plants healthy, our crop protection products are star players in the fight against climate change. There are two reasons why. First, higher yields means farmers use less resources and therefore create less emissions. Second, healthy plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere where otherwise it would worsen climate change.

Of course, we also produce greenhouse gas emissions when we make and transport our products – and when farmers use them. But the numbers show a clear net benefit. The emissions we produce are much lower than the levels of CO2 absorbed by healthy protected plants.

For every kilogram of CO2 we produce in making and using  crop protection products, a further 100 to 400 kilograms of CO2 are captured by the healthy plants these products support. It's an impressive balance.

Steps farmers can take now

Steps farmers can take now
Farmers can also make a big difference to climate change in the methods they use. We’re quick to share any advances which could help.

For example, rice farmers traditionally flood their fields to stop weeds growing and to flush out soil-dwelling pests. It makes sense – except that fermentation in the standing water produces large amounts of climate-damaging methane. 

A simple step can remedy that: if farmers use pre-germinated rice seed, they don’t need as much water, cutting emissions by about 30 per cent.

We’re currently piloting a project in Indonesia to share with rice farmers the benefits of direct seeding – which can also boost yields by ten per cent.

Steps Bayer can take now

The Bayer Climate Program plans to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent by 2020. But how? By steadily improving our energy efficiency at our production sites (see Resource Efficiency Check in SD Report) . Bayer stocks are listed in numerous sustainability funds and indices such as the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index in recognition of our transparent reporting. In 2011, our efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, put us in the top four companies in all sectors worldwide.

Staying one step ahead of malaria

Staying one step ahead of malaria
People spreading mosquito nets in Ethiopia
Malaria used to be a disease found in the tropics. But, due to climate change, the anophelese mosquito which carries the disease is appearing in new parts of the world – even Europe. If global warming carries on, some 40 to 60 million more people could be at risk.

Our fight against malaria never stops. One of our biggest sources of pride as a company is our LifeNet™, a mosquito bednet made from a fabric impregnated with insecticide. It’s effective far longer than conventional bednets.

At the same time, we’re always searching for new active substances to control the anopheles mosquito – staying one step ahead as the bug becomes resistant to standard products. Helping us fulfil our goals is a valued partner, the UK-based Vector Control Consortium, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Our work together has already uncovered some promising routes, such as blocking mosquitos’ odor receptors so that they can’t locate victims through smell.
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