Indicators Pointing Up

The need for increased food and fiber production lead three global “mega-trends” that will light the path to a bright future for agriculture, a leader from the crop protection industry told members of the Southern Crop Production Association (SCPA) at its recent annual meeting in Savannah, GA.

According to John Chrosniak, regional business director, North America, DuPont Crop Protection, a boost in agricultural productivity through technology — on the same or marginally more available farmland — is critical for the world to keep pace with significant growth in both population and personal wealth in the world’s less developed countries.

While the world’s population has grown 12% since 1997, consumption of soybeans has increased 40% and corn 22% in the same period. Increased standards of living in less developed countries, where virtually all of the world’s population growth is occurring, equates to greater demand overall for agricultural products.

China alone will use 78% of the world’s 27-million-ton increase in soybean imports in the next decade, said Chrosniak, also a member of CropLife’s PACE® Advisory Council. Argentina will crush 3 million tons of soybeans per year, he said.

Reins Of Leadership

At its 53rd annual meeting in Savannah, SCPA elected new officers for 2007-08:

 President: Fred Worthington, Cardinal Chemicals
  Vice President: Tony Durham, Syngenta Crop Protection
 Secretary/Treasurer: Pete Irwin, BASF Corp.
 Past President (Ex-oficio): Charles Morris, DuPont Crop Protection
Ed Duskin continues as executive vice president. Also its meeting, SCPA presented its LaRue Award for outstanding service to Steve Hutton, Dow AgroSciences.

More Production, Less Land

Meanwhile, the total crop areas harvested to keep up with food and fiber demand have grown only 2% in 10 years, opening up a clear need to continue increasing farming productivity. To date, technology has helped agriculture answer the call through greater productivity. For instance, during the past 25 years the global area for corn has risen 10% while production has expanded 56%, in effect creating what Chrosniak termed 150 million “virtual acres.”

Cotton consumption likewise is growing, Chrosniak said, projecting that the current 80- to 90-million-bale annual use levels of recent years will climb to more than 100 million bales by 2015. China alone will account for 47% of world cotton imports in eight years, pacing the world’s textile giants which also include India and Pakistan.

In the crop protection sector and for DuPont in particular, the goal is to develop inputs that are better, more effective as a contributor to yield growth, and safer, using a blend of biology, chemistry, and environmental stewardship/sustainability. DuPont also is looking to enhance nutrition through bioscience. The company’s innovations in this area have included no-trans-fat soybean oil and high-oleic soybean oil.

On To Biofuels, Safer Food

Beyond the need for a greater quantity of food and fiber, Chrosniak also cited the mega-trend tandem of consumers’ call for greater safety/security and renewable energy/materials as key drivers for agriculture in the coming years.

Biofuel consumption will grow in North America from 5 billion gallons to more than 30 billion gallons in 2020, at a growth rate of about 14% per year, Chrosniak predicted. Adoption will be even greater in the European Union, Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific region — a growth rate of 25% annually. In preparation, DuPont is developing cellulosic biofuels and has entered into a partnership with British Petroleum (BP) to develop and launch biobutanol.

Meanwhile, safe and wholesome foods which are also available and affordable are a growing consumer priority, as are natural fibers that are safe and comfortable as well as reliable and affordable.

To respond to these market shifts, crop producers will be asking their suppliers and key business partners to “keep me connected” — “make my life easier; keep me informed about weather and markets; help me use data for business and crop management,” according to Chrosniak. Add it all up, and for astute crop producers and agribusinesses who are attuned to global changes, significant opportunities lie on the road ahead. 

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