Any idea which industry is the world’s biggest user of fresh water?
No prize for guessing correctly that it’s agriculture. Whether we’re using it for cultivating crops, growing fresh fruit or raising livestock, our global agricultural industry consumes more than 70% of the world’s fresh water.
Growing food is a necessity, of course. But agriculture is competing for that resource – not least with the two billion people worldwide who don’t have access to fresh water supplies themselves.
This ‘water crisis’ lies behind the UN’s World Water Day initiative, held annually on 22 March. As the UN says, ‘dysfunction’ in the water cycle undermines progress on all major global issues, not just hunger and health but also gender equality, jobs, education, industry, natural disasters and preserving peace.
At FertiGlobal, we talk a lot about the importance of sustainability in agriculture: it’s one of the guiding principles that inspires our business. Yet we can’t pick and choose our approach to sustainability: agriculture relies on many natural resources. We can’t view it in isolation.
Water use, and availability, is a good example: Clean Water and Sanitation is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6. As we’ve said before, FertiGlobal can’t solve these problems alone, but what we can do is to help farmers be at the centre of any process of change that involves natural resources. Agriculture’s use of water can be improved. We’re committed to helping farmers realise that improvement in resource use, and that is why we’re proud to support World Water Day.
Our own initiatives
We need to help our farmer customers face the challenges of modern agriculture. It’s why we’ve chosen the route of bioactives and advanced crop nutrition solutions.
We know that a healthy plant is a productive plant. So our products often focus on boosting the plant’s own defence systems. A healthy crop in the field allows farmers to reduce the use of chemicals, such as fungicides.
A healthy plant, with a well-functioning defence and immune system, also improves crop resilience. The UN recognises the importance of crop resilience for reducing water use: climate change will likely lead to reduced rainfall, shortened rain-fed growing seasons, and higher temperatures. Unchecked, all have the potential to cause an increase in the agricultural demand for water – but if, thanks to the use of bio-actives and other crop care products, we can improve crop resilience, then we may be able to allay that extra call on our precious water resources.
Technique also plays a part. Modern fertigation systems – in which many of our products are designed to be used – can help farmers make more efficient use of water, while improving crop yield and productivity.
Theory into practice
For example, let’s look at the results of a trial in maize, conducted by our R&D team to assess the effectiveness of one of our Foliflo Technology products, Rumis. This new generation fertiliser has been designed to support plant growth, particularly at times of external stress – such as when seedlings are transplanted, or when subject to less-than-prime water availability.
Containing the micronutrients boron and zinc, as well as biostimulant compounds derived from Ecklonia maxima, a variety of seaweed, Rumis is ideal for fertigation use (although we’ve also successfully used it in drone applications, too!). In the trial, Rumis’ effect on root development was clear, with:
more biomass production, especially with fertigation application
improvement in all root parameters – weight, length, volume and surface
How can what appears to be a relatively small improvement – some better roots in maize – have any connection with World Water Day?
Two-fold: first, a more robust root system is a healthier root system. That’s beneficial in any crop. Healthier root systems mean healthier crops; healthier root systems mean more resilient crops during times of stress, such as drought. Healthy root systems mean crops can continue growing when soil moisture is less than optimal, reducing the need for artificial irrigation.
Second, sustainable agriculture is all about small steps and small improvements. But when there are nearly 600 million farms in the world, small steps suddenly become big steps. And if all of us are making those small steps, together we achieve a lot.
And that’s our objective at FertiGlobal: helping our customers be the change they wish to see in the world.
What makes FertiGlobal different? It’s time we turned to the third instalment in our series, and this time we put our research and development capabilities under the microscope.
We talk a lot about R&D at FertiGlobal. But that’s because we’re not just a company with a focus on R&D – instead, it’s our whole raison d’etre. The entire FertiGlobal concept – the appropriate application of technology to bring about measurable changes in farm practices that benefit people and planet – relies on exemplary R&D.
Let’s look at what’s involved in the third pillar of FertiGlobal.
It’s what makes us tick
It’s a cliché to say it, but we can’t deny it: agriculture faces many challenges. For an industry that exists in some shape or form in every country of the world, it’s not surprising that some of those challenges will be specific to regions or individual nations. That said, the industry can’t shy away from the challenges that present at a global level.
And it’s these that motivate everyone at FertiGlobal. It would be arrogant to consider that we could solve them alone, but we’re determined to play our part: everybody at FertiGlobal is committed to the development of new technologies that can be applied in pursuit of those challenges.
Our advanced biostimulant and crop nutrition solutions are the result of in-depth studies carried out by an international team of scientists employed by FertiGlobal. We’ve invested huge sums in building and equipping a modern crop research centre here in Tuscany, with well-resourced laboratories developing proven crop solutions that can be produced at scale, at quality, in our dedicated production plants.
At every step of the way, development to distribution, our dedication to quality control plays out for the constant reassurance of our customers.
Inspiration drives innovation
At FertiGlobal, we think – and then we do. The inspiration gives rise to the innovation. In practical terms, that means creating an environment that can empower our teams to continue the flow of new ideas and fresh solutions that keeps FertiGlobal’s customers productive and competitive. Yes, we need innovative methods of combining plant nutrients and biostimulants, but they must be compatible with a sustainable, resource-use efficient form of agriculture.
Our innovations are especially focused on crop enhancement: nutritional and bioactivating approaches that improve plants’ physiological functions and strengthen their innate defence and immune systems to counter stress, whether biotic or abiotic.
Our ability to continue freely producing food – or feed, fibre and fuel – needn’t be compromised by the pursuit of sustainable farming.
But in a world where the impact of climate change is becoming more and more tangible, and the fragility and dysfunction of our food systems becomes more apparent, there’s never been a better time to rethink agriculture: let’s reimagine it by reducing its environmental impact, downsizing our water footprint, and slashing our greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s our vision. How we get there is why we exist: new bioactivating and crop nutrition solutions that can improve crop resilience and raise yields and productivity.
In the final part of our Four Pillars blog, we’ll turn to Understanding. Intrigued? You’ll have to wait.
The most widely grown crops in the world? Corn, wheat and rice. The most important crops for a sustainable, future agriculture? Pulses might present a different story…
Today’s February 10, officially designated as World Pulses Day. Established in 2018 by the United Nations, the commemoration of the pulse recognises the importance attached to this vital family of food crops.
What is a pulse?
Leguminous crops that are harvested solely for their dry seed. Beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas are the most well-known examples of pulses. In many diets around the world, particularly where traditional forms of agriculture are still practised, the pulse is an essential crop.
Those dried seeds are packed with nutrients and have a high protein content. In regions where meat and dairy products are less common, pulses are often the main source of protein and can make up as much as 75% of the average diet. Once dried, they will keep for months or even years, losing none or little of their powerful nutritional value adding to their appeal.
Why does the UN celebrate them?
Aside from the nutritional benefits of pulses, helping people to maintain healthy, diversified diets, pulses have begun to attract attention for their role in sustainable agriculture, food security and climate change mitigation.
As the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) explains, pulses increase the resilience of farming systems. Take their water footprint: per unit of protein, pulses need only two-thirds the amount of water as cereals, for example.
But there’s more to it than just water and better drought tolerance, vital though these will be in a rapidly changing climate. Pulses also have an important role to play in a robust, sustainable agricultural system. They are the only crop group with the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, dramatically reducing the amounts of synthetic fertilisers needed for high yields, and improving soil fertility and farmland productivity for following crops.
FertiGlobal: supporting pulse crops worldwide
At FertiGlobal, we too recognise the importance of the pulse in helping farmers create more resilient, more sustainable farming systems.
With their impressive nitrogen-fixing abilities, farmers are increasingly using pulse crops such as the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in combination with other crops, a technique known as intercropping – to improve yields and increase soil health and biodiversity.
For the common bean and other pulses, including soybeans, FertiGlobal’s unique Crop Management Programs come into play. Through every growing stage, our technologies such as FOLIFLO and FOLISTIM, provide growers with reliable, effective plant nutrition and bioactivating solutions that strengthen the crop and increase productivity.