Research and technology will be key to surviving the next drought, with investments equal, at minimum, to the cost of drought required to mitigate the impact of the changing environment.
Droughts cost some $6-billion to $8-billion globally every year, with 80% of the drought-related losses in agriculture. Therefore, a multipronged approach in managing the cyclical, albeit devastating, environmental occurrence, is needed.
There were 84 droughts across 30 countries over the past nine years, DuPont agriculture business South Africa commercial leader Tony Esmeraldo pointed out at the Agribusiness Africa conference, in Kempton Park, on Tuesday.
“Imagine how many hectares this impacted. How many farmers had survived?,” he questioned, stating that technology could help reduce the impact of droughts on the sector.
“We are under immense pressure to do more with less and be sustainable,” he told delegates, citing the importance of greatly increasing production and grain yields to meet demand amid severe farming pressures, including climate, pricing and pests.
“Farmers require sustainable crop productivity and efficiency gains as they navigate multiple challenges,” he noted.
With three-quarters of farmers indicating productivity per hectare as their number one concern, a multipronged approach, through breeding, biotechnology, crop protection, digital solutions, agronomic solutions and seed applied technology, in addition to new technologies such as Crispr-cas genome editing and Aquamax, could play a critical role, delivering innovations in drought tolerance.
DuPont Pioneer is developing the Crispr-cas genome editing technology for advanced breeding that aims to improve a plant and allow selection based on desired characteristics, including higher yields, disease resistance, longer shelf life or better nutrition and develop seed products for greater environmental resiliency, productivity and sustainability.
“This could change our lives and the farmers’ lives and produce the food that we need in the future,” he said.
Esmaraldo further highlighted technologies such as Aquamax hybrid corn seed technology, as well as the Encirca range of services currently being piloted in Africa that could aid the industry in further improving operations and yields.
These types of tools were the key things requiring investment to ensure drought resiliency and future sustainability, he said, calling on collaboration, investment and partnerships to further conceive innovations in South Africa.
DuPont itself had injected R100-million into research and development facilities in South Africa aimed at contributing to the sustainability of the agriculture industry, with one such facility dedicated to drought management.