SAN ANTONIO, Texas – “Consumers don’t understand, and Mother Nature doesn’t care.”
That defines the challenges faced by agriculture today, as defined by speakers at the Bayer Crop Science Forum.
Julie Borlaug, Head of Outreach for the Borlaug Institute and granddaughter of the late Nobel Prize winning scientist Norman Borlaug, above left, expressed her views on biotechnology within urban and suburban households.
“One of my friends had an organic food party for our children. She wanted to make a statement that she was anti-GMO but she didn’t know what biotechnology did.” Borlaug said it’s hard to use science to counter the fear of biotech, but a dose of reality still works. “The lady screamed as she cut open a pepper from her organic garden and found a worm,” said Borlaug. She suggested that the worm was a lot less safe than having a biotech trait in a plant.
Water use was also addressed by a panel consisting of a corn grower from western Kansas and a barley grower from Idaho. Farmers in Kansas are seeing their aquifer drop as much as a foot and a half per year, with only about 60 feet of water laden strata remaining.
“We decided to get everyone together and have a voluntary reduction of 20% as the first step,” said Mitchell Baalman with FDK Partnership in Hoxie, Kansas. “We are now trying to keep everyone under 11 inches of water per year. It is actually making us better farmers because we plan ahead and we anticipate a need for water. We are reducing our costs and keeping our yields at the same level.”
MillerCoors has attempted to define its “footprint” of water use and found that 90% of the total water used to make beer is on the farms that irrigate to grow the malting barley. That’s according to Sustainability Manager of Water and Stewardship with MillerCoors Dr. Marco Ugarte. The company identified that the water level in their production area had dropped 50 feet in one decade. The beer company also used their beverage to have sessions with the 900 family farmers who grow their inputs and find ways to reduce water usage.