crop management Archives - FertiGlobal

May 27, 2024
Report from global tour

Why simple works

Africa was the focus of our last blog, when FertiGlobal’s Business Development Manager Claus Brakemeier explained how our partners are crucial to the success of our products. In this second part of our Africa focus, we’re taking a closer look at the products finding favour with Africa’s farmers.

How do you launch products in a country where the farmers, without exception, are unaware of the FertiGlobal brand and its speciality crop input portfolio?

In fact, it’s not just the FertiGlobal portfolio of which they have little awareness. Farmers in our three ‘market entry’ countries – Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa – have little awareness of any speciality products, because they’re not using them. Compared with Europe, or Latin America, there’s very little market penetration of this crop input category in southern Africa.

At first glance, that might appear to make any kind of market entry an uphill struggle. But that’s exactly why we’ve been very careful to select the right products to make the right introduction.

No matter where they are in the world, farmers are understandably cautious about the claims attached to novel products and new categories. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression; in farming, that translates to ‘you only get one chance to make the right decision’.

A product’s failure ‘to do what it says on the tin’ not only destroys trust in a category, but also directly affects a grower’s bottom line. At best it’s an unrealised return on investment; at worse, a potentially serious loss of yield.

That’s why FertiGlobal evidences all its product claims with full trial data. Farmers need this vital reassurance to give them full confidence in the provenance and performance of every product they choose to use on their crops.

Many farmers in this region already recognise that their crops are falling short of their yield potential, and that crops have yet to reach European standards of productivity. In many ways they’re hampered, though, because distributors do not carry the specialist products, such as biostimulants, that European farmers are so enthusiastically adopting.

Growers will often admit themselves that there’s a need for better knowledge mobilisation, too. Their uncertainty about which products to use, and whether they’ll offer a good return on investment, further dissuades them from stepping outside their product comfort zone.

Against this background, we decided to keep things simple. That’s why we’re blazing a trail into this region with just four key products: Mantus, Dinamico, Colore and OK. Well-known, well-proven products, they have been the subject of repeated, extended, widespread trials in many different crops and countries. We know exactly what they can do.

Keeping it simple means using these four products to demonstrate the concept and potential of FertiGlobal’s Total Crop Management approach, with a well-structured knowledge transfer programme run in partnership with Bancella. These four products also provide farmers with a comprehensive use case on the region’s key crops: tobacco, still of major economic importance in this region, vegetables, wheat, soybeans, blueberries, citrus, peas and potatoes.

In addition to Bancella’s role in helping FertiGlobal to secure registrations across the region, I’ve also been impressed by the enthusiasm shown by local agronomists and pest control advisers (PCAs). Brian Hayes, a well-respected and renowned PCA working with tobacco growers in Zimbabwe, has reported very positive results from his early trials with Mantus, one of our EnNuVi-enabled products. Here, a single application of Mantus at 1l/ha led to great result in fighting off Cercospora (frogeye).

Elsewhere in Zimbabwe, farmer Keith Butler is trialling OK on non-irrigated soybeans. While the crop has been under water stress, Keith reported that the area treated with OK – from our Foliarel technology range – has seen a marked improvement in plant development. We’re awaiting the harvest analysis to assess whether the visual cues extend to yield improvement too.

I can’t wait to share some further results from this region as we make progress in communicating the benefits of FertiGlobal’s Total Crop Management programmes to local farmers and their advisers. After all, this is an area with huge agricultural potential: its farmers just need the right tools and sufficient knowledge to help them realise it, sustainably and efficiently.

April 24, 2024
Report from global tour

Why FertiGlobal values its partners

A trip to South Africa beckoned for Claus Brakemeier, FertiGlobal’s Business Development Manager, in March. Here he explains what took him there.              

Sustainability, productivity and profitability: three of the key benefits ‘hard-wired’ into every FertiGlobal product.

But every one of our products – which all focus on protection, whether that’s of soil, seed, plant, yield or farmer – also comes with significant customer technical support. That’s in place to help farmers better understand our holistic concept of ‘Total Crop Management: the idea that optimising a crop’s yield potential is totally dependent on optimum plant health.

Every nugget of technical support has its origins in our R&D function. But how does that reach the farmer in the field, to give him or her the essential grasp of a FertiGlobal product?

Of course, there’s always the internet. Our website is a veritable treasure trove of technical guidance, essential trial results, and the all-essential regulatory information. Together, this provides an important backstop for any of our customers, wherever they happen to be in the world.

The internet, though, is only part of the story.

What really makes the difference is who we partner with to bring our products to end-users in new countries. These partners are vital in ensuring that our products reach the right audiences, with the right messaging, and with the right support to see them perform just as we intended when we developed them at our R&D facility in Italy.

Bancella, our partner in this region, is well-known for its commitment to bring new technologies to farmers – especially those that will allow agriculture to realise a more sustainable future in its key mission of feeding the world.

We’re delighted to be working with a partner who shares our beliefs. It was a pleasure to spend time with them, and their own regional partners, to get to grips with the agricultural zeitgeist in the region. As well as South Africa, we also visited Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Soybean field in Zimbabwe
Potato field in Zimbabwe
Blueberries field in Zimbabwe
Blueberries field in Zimbabwe
Meeting at York Farm in Zambia
Meeting with our distributor Amiran in Zambia

 

Having a partner like Bancella on the ground is particularly important for securing registrations in an efficient and timely manner. Anyone familiar with registration of crop inputs will know the spectrum of legislation across different countries, from ‘light touch’ to stringent.

Right now, Bancella is just beginning our market development across the region. In South Africa itself registration takes up to a year, with one in progress and five more in preparation, but in both Zambia and Zimbabwe the process is swifter: we have already registered seven and four products respectively.

What’s been really heartening to see is the sheer interest not only in FertiGlobal products but also the appetite from farmers and their advisers for solid, reliable technical information.

During my visit, I worked with Bancella’s local distributors to share with their advisers the key messages that lie behind FertiGlobal products, such as EnNuVi Technology, OK, Dinamico and Vesta. This kind of work is of vital importance when taking products into a new market: we need to be sure that advisers are confident about the ability of the products, in which crops they are most suited, and how farmers can maximise their benefits.

In the next blog, I’ll look more closely at some of the products we’re focusing on for this region and how we expect them to find a favourable reception with farmers across South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

February 28, 2024
Crop focus

Going bananas

It’s the world’s most popular fruit: every year, the 100 billion bananas we chomp our way through account for more than three-quarters of the tropical fruit trade. But as news of the first genetically modified banana has recently revealed, it’s a precarious trade.

Nearly every banana sold in every shop, in every country, on every continent, is a clone. They’re all examples of the Cavendish banana. Its ubiquity came about in the 1950s and 1960s because the previous global favourite – the Gros Michel – succumbed to the devastating Panama disease, caused by a form of Fusarium known as Tropical Race 1 (TR1).

The Gros Michel banana was itself a genetic clone, lacking the diversity that might have allowed it to evolve a genetic defence against attack by TR1. Instead, the Cavendish – a higher yielding variety, with thicker skin that made it even better suited to export – was selected from a naturally occurring hybrid that displayed the necessary resistance to TR1. It quickly became the world’s dominant banana variety, grown everywhere from South America to Africa and throughout Asia and into Australia.

But in 1990, a new disease – TR4 – was detected in Taiwan. Now widespread in more than 20 banana-producing countries, according to the FAO, it has put the Cavendish in potentially the same precarious position as the Gros Michel, eighty years ago. We could be facing a banana crisis on a global scale: in an industry worth $25bn, with annual production of more than 125 million tonnes, that’s a chilling thought.

What’s so devastating about Panama disease? Effectively, the total death of the plant: yellowing leaves quickly brown, before falling off. Then the fungus moves into the stem and roots, killing the tissue as it moves throughout the plant. Even replanting is not the solution. Once in the soil, TR4 becomes virtually impossible to eradicate.

It’s for this reason that the Australian government has approved an application from Queensland University of Technology to release QCAV-4, a genetically modified Cavendish variety developed to show resistance to TR4.

The resistance gene, labelled RGA2, has been taken from a wild banana variety found in South-East Asia. Interestingly, the gene is already present, although dormant, in the Cavendish variety. Approval of the variety gives the researchers the go-ahead to trial it in real conditions on farm; there are no plans yet to allow consumers to buy the new GM banana.

They’ll also try to use the CRISPR technique – gene-editing – to introduce the resistant gene, as gene-editing poses fewer hurdles when it comes to acceptance by regulators and consumers.

Another disease the researchers have identified as a target for gene-edited varieties is black sigatoka, brought on by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis. A foliar disease that causes lesions, chlorosis and physical collapse of the leaf, black sigatoka will ultimately cause the death of the plant. Chemical control is possible but requires an intense spraying programme of up to 50 applications every year. Even then, yield may be slashed by as much as 50%.

Adding to this grim outlook is the loss of many of the active ingredients that are most effective against black sigatoka. Mancozeb, for example, has already been banned in many countries; growers still permitted to apply it may nonetheless be prevented from using it, owing to production protocols imposed by their buyers.

But with any genetic solution still some way off, what’s the best option for banana producers facing the headache of black sigatoka? It’s a challenge that FertiGlobal took up.

Finding and commercialising these breakthrough solutions, that can assure farmers of yield and quality while observing regulatory parameters and environmental obligations, are FertiGlobal’s ‘bread and butter’. To help farmers navigate the threat of black sigatoka, we turned to our EnNuVi Technology, the patented nutrient-polyphenolic-molecule that focuses on facilitating the strengthening of the plant’s natural defence systems.

There’s a wealth of evidence to show that a balanced combination of nutrients – putting the plant in good stead – fortifies the plant, reducing its susceptibility to both biotic and abiotic stresses. With better health comes increased energy, allowing it to use its own in-built mechanisms to ward off attack by pathogens such as Mycosphaerella. If a plant can resist infection, a farmer’s need for fungicides is much reduced.

FertiGlobal took EnNuVi technology to India and the Philippines – respectively the world’s largest and sixth-largest banana producers – for trials.

The first trial, conducted in India, examined the losses induced in banana plants through leaf wilting. Farmer standard practice often saw wilting in more than half of all plants, leading to a loss in crop ROI of over $200/ha. But in plants treated with the EnNuVi-enabled Semia, the percentage of wilting plants was slashed to less than 10%, reducing investment loss by 85%.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the trial proposed to see whether EnNuVi would increase the number of functional leaves on each banana plant, boosting overall plant health and energy levels to help it fight stress and attack. Of all the EnNuVi products tested, Mantus provided the best result: a 44% increase in functional leaves, over the standard practice, after 45 days.

So while EnNuVi products can’t be seen as a direct replacement for mancozeb, because they don’t exhibit any fungicidal properties, they can – if applied at the correct time in the crop cycle – provide growers with an earlier alternative that may alleviate their need for fungicides at a later date.

We’re not stopping at bananas, of course. FertiGlobal is committed to ensuring continuing success in every crop in which we have an interest. If we can help farmers, wherever they are in the world, reduce the use of agrochemicals and maintain or increase their crop’s productivity and yield, we’ll find a way to do it. It’s the FertiGlobal way.

February 2, 2024
Biostimolanti in campo

A new approach to crop protection: how FertiGlobal defines innovation

Independent trials show the way

This leading Italian publication field-tested FertiGlobal’s products. Here’s what they found.

Established in 1945, L’Informatore Agrario is one of the most respected agricultural publications in Italy. Read weekly by more than 40,000 people, including breeders and technicians, farmers and agritech entrepreneurs, it’s come to be seen as one of the most qualified – and fiercely independent – sources of agronomic information available to the Italian crop production sector.

So, it’s not surprising that when the magazine launched an innovative new project – Biostimolanti in Campo (Biostimulants in the Field) – to help them understand the novel and exciting world of biostimulants, and how to incorporate them into their production systems, they attracted considerable support.

Not only is the project run in collaboration with the Centro Sperimentale Ortofloricolo Po di Tramontana di Veneto Agricoltura – the Venetian agency for innovation in the land-based industries – but it’s also garnered the backing of OP Isola Verde, a consortium of 19 businesses cultivating more than 280ha of greenhouse crops under organic and integrated crop management regimes.

And as if that’s not enough, the whole scheme’s scientific rigour is co-ordinated by four of Italy’s leading universities: Tuscia, Salerno, Naples and Padua. This project is about as independent as it can be.

“It’s that striking independence that attracted FertiGlobal to get involved in the project,” says Mohammed Mahboubi, Area Manager Mediterranean. “Biostimulants present a valuable and viable set of tools to help farmers improve the yield and quality of horticultural crops.

“With the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy encouraging a reduction in the use of agrochemicals and synthetic fertilisers, there’s a distinct role for biostimulants within farmers’ production strategies.”

Initially, the project covers just four crops: processing tomatoes, melons, zucchini (courgettes) and rocket.

“With the novel nature of many biostimulants, and the rapid R&D progress that FertiGlobal and others like us are achieving, there’s a real need for independent, farm-level research to help with practical knowledge transfer to improve usage and on-farm performance across a wide range of crops.

Biostimolanti in Campo does just that. It’s a collaborative approach, bringing together not only the universities’ rigorous scientific overview and the expertise of the research centres, but also commercial diversity: it’s very promising that FertiGlobal is joined by other companies active in the biostimulant sector, to engage in this essential undertaking.”

Mohammed points out that the independent nature of the project allows evaluation of more than just the effect of biostimulants: it’s also about their economic convenience. “When manufacturers release information about margins and cost-benefit ratios, it can sometimes be perceived as biased, but through Biostimolanti in Campo we can demonstrate an impartial economic assessment.”

Processing tomatoes were one of the crops for which FertiGlobal supplied three products for the 2023 trials programme: ALPAN, CAUTHA and CREO.

ALPAN, a concentrated suspension of Mg and bioactive polyphenols, was developed to improve the translocation of photo assimilates – the products of photosynthesis – to promote root growth and increase sugar production. It also serves to bolster plants’ natural defence mechanisms and offers some protection against drought stress.

CAUTHA comprises a similar set of bioactive polyphenols, this time co-formulated with Ca. Reducing the effect of biotic and abiotic stress on plants, it maintains chlorophyll levels and helps the crop accumulate valuable osmo-protective molecules.

CREO is a foliar fertiliser fortified with L-methionine. The addition of this important amino acid serves to improve the uniformity of fruit ripening and increases Brix.

A programme comprising all three products was devised by the independent trials team:

 

Weeks since transplanting Crop growth stage Product applied Rate Water volume
7 Fruit growth commencing CAUTHA 2L/ha 1000L/ha
8 CAUTHA 2L/ha 1000L/ha
9 Fruit growth complete CAUTHA+ALPAN 2L/ha 1000L/ha
10 ALPAN 2L/ha 1000L/ha
11 Beginning to mature CREO 3L/ha 1000L/ha
12 30% fruit mature CREO 3L/ha 1000L/ha
13      

“We were very pleased with the results,” Mohammed enthuses. “The FertiGlobal protocol delivered a 17.6t/ha increase over the farmer standard practice. At prices in place at the time, that would add nearly €3,500/ha to a grower’s margin.

“But it wasn’t just quantity – yield – that improved; we saw some dramatic increases in quality too.”

Overall, fruit from treated plants displayed better vigour, and was more consistent – an important parameter for transport and processing. There was also a slight increase in

°Brix.

“This is but one trial”, says Mohammed, “albeit one carried out independently by well-regarded and prestigious organisations.

“However, it clearly shows the ability of well-developed, science-led biostimulants to improve not just profitability on-farm – that €3,500/ha increase comes from an investment of just €200/ha in input costs – but environmental performance too.

“One-fifth of the treated fruit was rejected, compared to one-quarter from the control plots. We know we have a problem with food waste, but efforts to reduce it begin at the farm, way before it reaches the fork.

“We look forward to continuing to work with L’Informatore Agrario on Biostimolanti in Campo,” Mohammed concludes. “There’s work still to be done: to progress further with the on-farm knowledge transfer, yes, but also in the exciting direction of seeing how biostimulants and innovative solutions can be used to reduce both plant protection products input and irrigation demands while maintaining production output and efficiency.

“Biostimulants, bioactivators and innovative nutritive solutions really are the new frontier for crop production.”

December 20, 2023
Biostimulants World Congress 2023

A new approach to crop protection: how FertiGlobal defines innovation

BSWC2023

More than 1400 delegates flocked to the Biostimulants World Congress 2023, held in Milan, Italy, in November. With FertiGlobal’s ‘Crop Management Program’ philosophy wholly centred on the principle of biostimulation or bioactivation, the company exhibited at the event and shared its approach with delegates.

Claus Brakemeier, FertiGlobal’s global business development manager, explained the need for innovation in agriculture and why FertiGlobal believes it can be delivered with a new approach to crop protection.

 

What is innovation? In FertiGlobal, we’ve defined it as “a process by which a product or service is renewed and brought up to date by applying new processes, introducing new techniques or establishing successful ideas to create new value – value being a defining characteristic of innovation.”

As for the reason why we need innovation, we have only to look at the state of modern agriculture. Overuse of chemical plant protection products, nutrient losses, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity – the list goes on. And it’s for these reasons – or mitigation of them – that have given rise to the European Green Deal and its Farm2Fork strategy.

By 2030, we can expect to see organic farming make up between 25-30% of European farmland; to have reduced the use of chemical pesticides by 50%; and to have reduced nutrient losses – without affecting soil fertility – by 50%.

It’s a tall order, hence the need for innovation. But if the use of chemical pesticides is to be reduced by 50%, what will replace them?

FertiGlobal’s approach has been to look at how we can help the plant to help itself. After all, plants have been growing for more than 400 million years: during that time, they’ve developed their own complex defence mechanisms. How can we make better use of these?

That’s where we’ve focused: on the importance of biostimulation. We’re rethinking ‘crop protection’, realigning it to the idea of boosting the plant’s capability to defend itself.

What does the plant need, in terms of bioactivation, to perform better when it’s under stress? Given that many crops do not even reach 20% of their production potential, how do we reduce the effects of crop stress – whether biotic or abiotic – and remove one of the major causes of productivity reduction?

From the start, this has been out-of-the-box thinking. FertiGlobal has pulled together a new team, characterised by diverse skills, knowledge and experience. They’re using ultra-modern facilities. And we’re investing in research that has enough depth and power to deliver our objective: a truly innovative, new-ball approach to crop protection.

It’s all about making the plant our ‘teacher’. If we take time to analyse and understand the stress factors that impact crop productivity and quality, we can study the plant’s reactions and correlate those with elements of the plant’s own self-defence mechanisms. Then we can use that acquired knowledge to research and develop the innovative formulations and products, each family of products termed a ‘Technology’, for example FOLISTIM or EnNuVi.

We also decided our formulations and products would some basic but essential requirements:

  • Safe and environmentally friendly raw materials, preferably derived or extracted from biological origins, combined with essential plant nutrients;
  • Balancing of those raw materials so that that they can bioactivate the plant’s inherent self-defence processes (remembering what we learned from the plant ‘teacher’);
  • Formulations that avoid adding more stress to the plants when they’re used: high analysis suspensions, liquid solutions, water-soluble powders, wettable powders, and so on.

This approach to product development must be balanced against testing: how do we make sure our products work the way they’re intended? We start with growth chamber tests, then move on to glasshouse trials. When we’re satisfied with the performance, we bring in the scientists to confirm the mode of action and check phytotoxicity and environmental performance.

Next, we take the products into the field. Only through extensive field trials can we prove the products’ efficacy under real conditions. We need to know how they’ll perform on different crop, in different regions, in varying soil types, and during all seasons.

Once we´re confident we have consistent results, we take the products to the growers for demonstration purposes: primarily efficacy and economic performance, but also to monitor ease of application and compatibility.

It’s this meticulous approach to product development that defines FertiGlobal’s portfolio, and every product within it. We’re confident about the ability of our products to deliver innovation; with this approach, we can ensure our customers can be confident they’ll do just that.

FertiGlobal at BSWC2023
FertiGlobal’s booth at Biostimulants World Congress 2023 in Milan
November 26, 2023
World days

World Olive Tree Day

UNESCO proclaimed November 26 as World Olive Tree Day in 2019

Valued by humans for more than 100,000 years, the humble olive may seem an odd crop around which to build a civilisation.

Yet along with grapes and grain, it was the olive that made up the ‘trinity’ of staple goods on which the might and heft of Greek civilisation was founded.

Today, its global ubiquity – a preferred cooking oil, a go-to snack, the veritable cocktail olive, even cosmetics and ‘nutraceuticals’ – supports a global industry that stretches far beyond the olive tree’s Mediterranean origins. An estimated 850 million olive trees grow worldwide, yielding an annual crop of more than 10 million tonnes.

For the farmers who rely on the olive – Spain is the world’s biggest producer, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the global harvest – it’s a commodity crop. Nevertheless, it’s a crop unlike any other, thanks to the spiritual and cultural connotations it’s acquired during its long history with humans.

From the earliest times, we know that olive oil was considered sacred and holy: the 400 million people who watched the coronation of the United Kingdom’s King Charles III in May may not have known it, but during the most sacred part of the ceremony a special oil, created from olives harvested from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, was used to anoint the country’s new monarch.

Meanwhile the tree has lent itself to diverse symbolism of wisdom, fertility, power and purity. Most notably, the olive branch is regarded as a sign of peace – a practice dating back to those ancient Greeks, who used consignments of olives as a diplomatic gift to the Egyptian pharaohs.

In declaring World Olive Tree Day, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, perhaps described it most succinctly and eloquently:

“The olive tree is therefore a universal tree, which has accompanied humanity for thousands of years, embodying its aspirations; because with its legendary longevity and ability to rise from its ashes, it reaches beyond the short-sightedness of the moment: planting an olive tree and eating its fruit is to join the chain of humanity.”

In establishing the Day, UNESCO – whose ultimate ‘parent’ body, the United Nations, incorporates two olive branches in its flag – sought to encourage the protection of the olive tree and the values in embodies. By recognising the tree with a Day, UNESCO recognises its important social, cultural, economic and environmental significance to humanity.

Elevating the olive tree’s importance couldn’t happen at a more opportune time. UNESCO points out that conserving and cultivating the olive tree is a ‘growing imperative’ as the world combats and adapts to climate change.

The years 2022 and 2023 have served to highlight that threat. For a second year, the world’s olive harvest has been struck by a combination of extreme heat, wildfires and drought. In May 2023, Spain reported a drop in production of nearly 50 per cent; September saw the US Department of Agriculture revise its global olive oil production estimate to a quarter lower than 2022 and the five-year average.

What’s more concerning is how it’s not just Spanish producers who are suffering: Apulia, Italy’s most important olive oil production region, has been heavily affected by storms in recent weeks, damaging the imminent harvest for the world’s second most important producer.

Olive tree day by FertiGlobal
Giuseppe Fiore, FertiGlobal sales manager in South Italy, during a visit in an olive tree field.

And the story continues throughout the Mediterranean with similar stories in Portugal, Tunisia, Greece and Morocco. Indeed, the threat of dwindling supplies has pushed olive oil prices 130 percent higher than a year ago. It’s now ten times more expensive than crude oil.

It’s a very worrying situation, especially as the root cause – climate change – is a factor causing difficulty and upheaval in other key crop markets, too.

Here at FertiGlobal, we’re ultimately focused on providing farmers of all crops with solutions to deliver a more sustainable agriculture. As World Olive Tree Day approaches, we’re looking ahead to the next crop season with our own olive branch to growers: we’re working hard to make our advanced agricultural technologies, such as EnNuVi, supported in olive agronomy.

We believe there’s an opportunity to bring our Total Crop Management approach to the olive grove. By focusing on the defence mechanisms naturally present in the plant, we can improve its tolerance to extreme biotic (pest and disease) and abiotic (environmental) stresses. A vital lifeline for this vital industry, yes – but also an opportunity to demonstrate the validity of the European Green Deal, and its objectives to reduce the use of plant protection products and artificial fertilisers.

EnNuVi encompasses a wide portfolio of products. Get in touch with us to discover how to bring EnNuVi into your own integrated crop nutrition plan.

October 16, 2023
World days

Water is life, water is food

We focus a lot on the UN’s various designated ‘days of action’ here at FertiGlobal, because they serve real purpose in drawing attention to things that matter, especially those in which we can identify our own principles and objectives.

But there’s one day in the year that really stands out – and not just for us. World Food Day is one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Established in 1979 to honour the anniversary of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and first observed in 1981, the day is now recognised with collective action across more than 150 countries, in up to 50 languages. World Food Day underlines awareness of hunger and encourages action for the future of food, people and the planet.

To this end, every year World Food Day adopts a fresh theme to give new impetus to its work and to highlight areas where action should focus. In many countries, despite the importance of agriculture as a significant component of developing countries’ economies, all too often there’s not enough money available from public funds to underwrite the investment required to realise action; the private sector is valuable in making up this shortfall.

By using a theme to draw attention, private and public investment can be directed towards the most pressing needs. In 2023, that’s water: Water is life, Water is food. Leave no one behind.

The significance of this? Well, just 2.5% of the world’s water is naturally fresh, making it suitable for drinking, agriculture and other industrial uses. The UN describes this invaluable resource as ‘the driving force for people, economies and nature and the foundation of our food’.

But agriculture accounts for 72% of the world’s freshwater use – and it’s not infinite.

It’s especially not infinite when you consider the background against which we are using it: population growth, climate change, urbanisation and economic development. Our planet’s water resources are stressed: indeed, freshwater resources per person have declined by 20% in recent decades. How much further can we push it?

Not much, given that 2.4 billion people now live in water-stressed countries. For years we’ve worried that water scarcity will create the conflicts of the 21st century; in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Laos, India, Somalia, Bolivia and beyond, these concerns are already erupting into protests and transboundary disputes.

So it’s time to start managing water more wisely – using less of it to produce food and other commodities, and being more equitable when it comes to distribution and access. While governments and supranational organisations undoubtedly have their roles to play in designing and promoting policies that will achieve wiser water use, so too does the consumer. The UN points out that we – the general public – can make a difference by choosing local, seasonal and fresh foods, wasting less of it (including less food waste) and finding safe ways to reuse it while preventing water pollution.

As innovators ourselves, we love the attention being paid to agricultural water innovation throughout the world. Take the British company Alvatech, for example: its research is focused on conserving valuable irrigation water by making saline water usable in the field. Then there’s the work being conducted by institutions such as the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, where successful attempts are being made to promote the safe use of wastewater for agriculture. And a special mention to the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, in the US, where they’re not only working on new techniques for good water management practice, but developing the understanding and leadership that we need to manage water sustainably and increase food security.

Of course, we’re not without our own innovations, too. Keeping plants healthy and well-fed, with the right amount of the right nutrients delivered at the right time – that’s a sure-fire way to delivering plants that can cope better with the rigours of climate change, by making them more resilient to drought stress.

And as we never tire of explaining, FertiGlobal’s Total Crop Management approach is designed with both the grower and the environment in mind: helping growers to make the right decisions and take the right steps in successful crop management ensures we’re making better use of the precious resources needed by agriculture. That means we can grow more with less – and that’s a principle that, delivered by farmers across the world, will go a long way to reducing the misery of hunger.

So, this World Food Day, October 16th – think about what you can do for the future of food, people and the planet, especially when it comes to water use. Read more about it here

October 1, 2023
World days

International Coffee Day

If you’re enjoying a cup of coffee while reading this post, you’re likely to be in good company: coffee is the world’s most popular drink, with an estimated two billion cups consumed every day.

But for the farmers around the world who grow the plants that yield the coffee beans that are roast and ground to fill that cup of yours, coffee is more than just a commodity and a global market worth more than $90bn: it’s their way of life. Helping them to improve the way they farm – boosting quality, improving yields, and providing better market access to realise more of the value of their crop – can help millions of smallholder farmers grow themselves out of poverty.

That’s just one of the reasons behind International Coffee Day, celebrated annually on October 1. Behind this day of awareness is the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. It’s the only intergovernmental organisation for coffee, bringing together exporting and importing governments, and representing an astonishing 93% of world coffee production, and 63% of consumption.

International Coffee Day acts as a lightning rod to highlight the work of ICO throughout the year: focused on strengthening the coffee sector, it is particularly attuned to the importance of promoting sustainable expansion to benefit everyone within the value chain, from grower to consumer. Good practice in coffee production can make a significant contribution to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals by generating income, creating employment opportunities and releasing families and even whole communities from poverty.

What’s remarkable about International Coffee Day is that it’s pushing at an open door: consumers’ interest in traceability and transparency is growing rapidly, and it’s no coincidence that fair-trading initiatives – with special attention to product quality and origin – have proved successful in the coffee market. That’s particularly important given its structure: coffee is usually exported from producer countries at a very early stage in its value chain, reducing opportunities to retain value.

The inexorable demand for coffee from the world’s consumers has had an impact on coffee’s sustainability, too. Traditionally, coffee is grown as an ‘understory’ crop – grown in shade, under the canopy of trees in a forest. In pursuit of increased production, more aggressive systems have been adopted. Yet those traditional systems offer many benefits, not least in fighting climate change impacts: carbon capture, soil retention, and preservation of biodiversity being amongst the most important.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, given FertiGlobal’s commitment to a more sustainable form of agriculture, coffee has been a focus crop for our research and development team. Our Total Crop Management approach is well-suited to coffee: by improving a plant’s resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses, through appropriate nutrition and product selection, farmers can better mitigate the effects of climate change. Coffee is highly sensitive to even slight changes in temperature and rainfall. World Coffee Research, a non-profit research and development organisation, points out that a crop of coffee planted today will, over its 20-60 year lifespan, bear the brunt of climate change. One fifth of the world’s coffee area may face up to 5 months of drought by 2050 (zero today), while 80% of the coffee area is likely to face maximum temperatures higher than 30°C. Coffee’s optimum temperature range is 18-21°C.

With this goal of resilience in mind, we’re delighted to be working with one of the world’s biggest names in coffee (sorry, we can’t reveal who!) on a new development in Brazil. Ethics and sustainability are of the highest priority for this producer, but they’re also focused on nothing less than the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to the quality of the beans they buy, selecting only from the top 1%.

Already a year into the project, we’ve collaborated with their agronomist team to establish a coffee-specific Total Crop Management programme. Initial work has seen innovative monitoring systems deployed to identify and combat plant stress, the aim being to maintain and increase bean yield and quality. More recently, the focus has widened to include disease monitoring – specifically, a system that can predict or anticipate the onset of coffee rust.

Coffee rust, caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, is the world’s most economically significant coffee disease. Once leaves are infected, they drop prematurely – depressing photosynthetic activity and weakening the tree. Because next year’s berries are borne on the previous season’s shoots, rust in one season influences the following season’s yields. Nutritional status is associated with the plant’s susceptibility to rust – hence the importance of a Total Crop Management approach – but further benefit will certainly be achieved from a system that can anticipate the development of the disease.

You’ve probably finished that cup of coffee by now. Go and pour yourself another one. But this time, savour it even more with the knowledge that FertiGlobal’s working hard to see its commitment to sustainable agriculture manifested in the humble coffee bean – with far from humble effects for the growers who meet our daily demand.

September 29, 2023
World days

UN Food Loss and Awareness Day

We don’t talk enough about food loss and waste, even within agriculture, but if you knew that 30% of the world’s agricultural land is producing food that is never going to get eaten, wouldn’t you want to know why? Wouldn’t you want to do something about it?

At FertiGlobal, we’re committed to playing our part in making agriculture more sustainable. Ultimately, that means doing more with less, and making better use of the resources available to us. Today, September 29, is the United Nations’ International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, established to raise awareness and help promote a global effort to address it.

We’re staunch supporters, not least because our whole philosophy here at FertiGlobal is about helping farmers get the most from the land they farm.

Let’s first look at some facts. Nearly a billion people faced the despair of hunger in 2022, yet we lost 13 per cent of the world’s food between the points of harvest and retail. If you thought that was bad, what about the 17 per cent of global food production wasted by households, food service industries and retailers? How can we justify these losses when so many people are going hungry?

It’s more than social consciousness, too. Food loss and waste do much to undermine the sustainability of global food systems. Water, land, farm inputs, energy, labour and capital are all wasted when food is wasted. What’s more, at a time when we’re more attuned than ever to the growing threat – and reality, after a year of record-breaking temperatures, devastating droughts and rampant wildfires – of climate change, food loss and waste is a ‘low hanging fruit’ as we seek to reduce emissions.

Agriculture already accounts for around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. But the level of food loss and waste we currently experience equates to a completely unnecessary and avoidable 7% of emissions that we could – if there’s both the will and the way – remove immediately.

Of course, such a change won’t happen overnight. That’s why the United Nations’ International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction is so important: we need to improve understanding and change behaviour at every level of society, from farmers to consumers. This is a problem we must tackle together.

We’re acutely aware of our own responsibilities here at FertiGlobal. That is why we’re so invested in our Total Crop Management approach to crop production, crop health and crop nutrition. From the very moment a crop is sown, we can empower growers to make the right decisions and take the right steps to ensure that its needs are met, and its yield potential realised. By encouraging such practices, we make more efficient use of scant and precious resources – ultimately leading to that happy state of being able to grow more with less.

But it’s not just in the field that these decisions and practices have an effect. Using the right products at the right time can ensure that harvest takes place at an appropriate time – meaning less chance of produce being left in the field, for example. A healthy crop in the field also means a longer-lasting crop in store: fruit with adequate calcium levels, for instance, will be less susceptible to damage during handling and processing, more resilient to pathogens, and more likely to exhibit a longer shelf-life.

In a global society that’s perhaps more divided, more disunited, than ever before, food remains the great leveller: the one thing that no-one can do without. It’s not for nothing that people say farming is the most important job in the world, because without our farmers and growers, life would no longer be as we know it.

It’s in all our interests to make food production more productive, less wasteful, and less damaging to our environment. It’s within everyone’s ability to contribute to the effort: a farmer seeking out the crop inputs that can have a lasting effect on food’s durability and longevity through the food chain, the consumer who commits to wasting less of that carefully grown produce, a retailer using technology to improve logistics and shelf life, or the agricultural supplier doing the legwork to develop the products that can support a more responsible, sustainable agricultural industry and a less wasteful food system.

It’s this last role we’re proud to be fulfilling ourselves, here at FertiGlobal.

What action will you commit to undertake on Food Loss and Awareness Day?

August 26, 2023
Strawberries’ conference

Donggang: the best strawberries in China

Regularly referred to as China’s ‘first county’ for strawberries, the city of Donggang – in the country’s north-eastern Liaoning province – has more than 80 years of experience in cultivating the ever-popular berry.

As the most established strawberry production zone in China – itself the world’s largest producer and consumer of strawberries – the crop’s planting area in Donggang continues to expand: even the pandemic marked only a blip in production, as production jumped from 9,867 hectares in 2019 to cover more than 13,300 ha in 2021.

No surprise then that Donggang played host last month to the first China Strawberry Industry Development Conference, a two-day event bringing together the entire strawberry supply chain. On the programme: knowledge exchange, product launches, field visits and networking.

FertiGlobal was there too: we’ve seen some impressive results in Chinese strawberry crops with two of our products, Yinnongwei (Mantus) and Weixiao (Tages). We wanted to share those findings with a wider audience, and what better place than Donggang?

We took the bold step of becoming a co-sponsor of the conference, joining well-known organisations such as Donggang Agricultural and Rural Bureau, the China Horticultural Society Strawberry Branch, and Liaoning Donggang Strawberry Association, to meet more than 600 representatives from 18 provinces and cities across China.

And what a meeting it turned out to be: it’s so encouraging to see our Total Crop Management philosophy, embedded in all our products, receive such good reception whenever we share it with a new audience. Protection of soil, seed, plant, yield or farmer, this crucial aspect is common to every FertiGlobal product. Our products offer protection from beginning to end of a crop’s lifecycle and throughout our customers’ farming businesses.

In both Mantus and Tages are embedded the same innovative, breakthrough technologies – using the best, high quality, bioavailable compounds – that stimulate the crop’s natural defence processes. When we prioritise plant health, we avoid situations that can allow specific problems to develop. Thus there’s no need for individual, specific solutions. It reflects FertiGlobal’s basic tenet – optimising a crop’s yield potential is totally dependent on optimum plant health.

It’s a story that resonated with those at the show, with customers agreeing purchase orders during the event. We’ll look forward to following up with these customers as the season develops: the region produces fruit from November to June, with March through May typically the peak months. Hongyan strawberries are the most famous local variety, thanks to their colour, flavour and consistent quality. They also store well and can be transported long-distances, which is a great advantage towards the end of the season, when they are often the last domestically produced berries available.

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