Climate smart food depends on agriculture

By Sarah Bloch, Associate Director Research Strategy, Pivot Bio

Sarah Bloch Speaker Headshot - World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, San Francisco
“Like every industry, agriculture can work towards more sustainable practices. Unlike other fields, agriculture can leverage those sustainable practices for global impact, becoming a part of the climate solution.” – Sarah Bloch, Pivot Bio

New technologies designed to benefit both the farmer and the environment are arriving to help agriculture play a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally. I’m looking forward to being part of World Agritech’s panel on Climate & Agriculture: How do we make agriculture part of the climate solution?” and representing the work Pivot Bio does to support farmers and preserve clean air and water. This is an important discussion on the role technology will play in developing the sustainable, productive agricultural system that benefits all of us.

A changing climate places an undeniable burden on growers. Farmers are meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture to dig into the hard question facing their industry – how do we navigate warmer, wetter growing seasons that are more prone to extreme weather? The increase in extreme weather risks are coupled with predictions of lower productivity in staple commodity crops. Taken together, it’s crushing growers already squeezed by trade constraints and input costs.

The farmers that grow our food are dedicated to preserving their land and our shared air and water while maintaining the productive output that a growing population needs. Tools like the nitrogen-fixing microbes that I work with at Pivot Bio are part of a new generation of technology that help to reduce inputs and maximize outputs. Innovations like these are the key to making agriculture the cornerstone of a climate-smart economy.

Agriculture has the potential to be the leading green industry. While farmers find themselves facing the brunt of the climate challenge, they are safeguarding one of the best tools we have to tackle it. When plants grow, they use photosynthesis to take carbon dioxide from the air (the same carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change) and fashions it into roots, leaves, and productive crops. Plants are the original carbon scrubbers. In fact, at the height of the growing season, the U.S. Corn Belt takes in more CO2 than the Amazon does. When we reliably harness this powerful tool, growers will find themselves providing two benefits to the world: productive crops and a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Pivot Bio is doing its part. In a crop like corn, synthetic fertilizer can account for up to 50% of the emissions generated during a growing season. Our nitrogen-fixing microbes displace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer – and its associated GHG emissions – to help growers cultivate productive farmland that has the potential to bring in more carbon than it puts out into the atmosphere. We’re working with universities across the nation to effectively measure how our product maximizes yield and limits nitrogen loss by reducing leaching and volatilization.

Farmers are on the front lines of a rapidly changing world, and with the help of new tools they’re doing a lot more than growing food. It is estimated that there is $14 billion USD in value tied up in improved soil health and agricultural practice. The people creating that value are the growers cultivating intensely productive crops and implementing effective soil management practices. The challenge facing us is to make sure that farmers do well when they do good, building an agricultural system that is most profitable when it does the most good for the planet.

When farmers win, we all benefit with cleaner air, cleaner water, and a new tool to tackle the challenge of a changing climate. I’m proud to be part of an industry that is working to provide technical and financial tools that support growers and make agriculture the greenest industry of all. Be sure to listen to our panel on March 18 at 9:15. I’ll see you there.

Sarah Bloch will speak at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit on March 18: “Climate + Agriculture: How Do We Make Agriculture Part of the Climate Change Solution?”.