Improving food security in the face of climate change with biotechnology

Let’s accelerate and Rethink Tomorrow

Tractor plowing field

Climate change could put up to 180 million more people at risk of hunger. With crop yields already being impacted, we urgently need to build resilience into crop production systems.

 

Let’s Rethink agriculture

The impact of climate change around the world

Another year of record temperatures and a wide range of climate anomalies across the globe has made the impact of climate change very clear. This year alone, the US Midwest has seen extreme rainfall while California experienced heatwaves. Eastern Australia was hit by record rainfall and widespread flooding. Europe faced one of its toughest years for extreme weather. Extremely high temperatures across the region led to droughts and wildfires. Flooding in South Africa killed hundreds and forced thousands from their homes. And across Asia, floods, droughts and tropical storms have hit populations hard.

tractor in field

This all adds up to 55 Billion Tonnes

That was the amount of CO2 emitted into our atmosphere in 2021. And the number has not started declining yet.With biorefineries we can reduce emissions from transportation, energy and manufacturing.

The impact of climate change around the world

Another year of record temperatures and a wide range of climate anomalies across the globe has made the impact of climate change very clear. This year alone, the US Midwest has seen extreme rainfall while California experienced heatwaves. Eastern Australia was hit by record rainfall and widespread flooding. Europe faced one of its toughest years for extreme weather. Extremely high temperatures across the region led to droughts and wildfires. Flooding in South Africa killed hundreds and forced thousands from their homes. And across Asia, floods, droughts and tropical storms have hit populations hard.

How climate change impacts crop production

Climate change puts multiple complex stresses on crop production systems. But according to the FAO, there are a number of key factors to consider. The impacts of three - temperature alterations, rainfall pattern changes and pests and weeds - are explained below.

Temperature_illustration.png

Temperature alterations

When average temperatures rise, plants need to use more energy for respiration. That means less energy for growth and reduced yields. In some plants, photosynthesis is also more sensitive to higher temperatures. Extremely high temperatures can even impact seeds in storage.

Changing growing seasons can also reduce sugar levels in fruits and vegetable crops. That impacts their market value.

Rainfall illustration

Changes in rainfall patterns

80% of the world’s cropped area relies on rainfall rather than artificial watering systems. So rainfall patterns are critical to crop production.

The general prediction is that climate change will make high-rainfall areas even wetter. By contrast, low-rainfall areas will become even drier. Flooding and prolonged droughts will also become more frequent.

So the potential impact on crops – and food security – is huge.

Pest and weeds illustration

Pests and weeds

Pest and weed distribution will likely change along with climate. So crops may have to compete for resources with invasive weed species.

And as they move into new areas, pests may move away from the natural control provided by their predators. Plants weakened by the other impacts of climate change will be more vulnerable to all pests and weeds, including invasive ones.

Climate-change related crop stressors have the potential to devastate our food security. Models cited by the IPCC project that climate change could put up to 183 million more people at risk of hunger.  It’s essential that we act now to rethink agriculture and find solutions that build crop resilience. The good news is that some of the solutions already exist. 

Biotechnology builds crop resistance

Here is what science and biotechnology can do...

...through root growth

Our broad portfolio of BioAg solutions work with nature to help us solve a range of climate-change related challenges. Our JumpStart® inoculant is a great example. It's based on a naturally-occurring soil fungus that increases phosphate availability. That promotes root growth. Climate change will increase stressors such as weed pressure and drier conditions. Plants with large, healthy root systems have the potential to better withstand these. Larger root systems can also help hold more nutrients in the soil during flood conditions. They can even help to mitigate climate change, as plants capture carbon from the air and store it underground in their root systems. So the larger its root system, the more carbon a plant can potentially store.

through root growth

...through increased photosynthetic activity

Our LCO-promoter technologies are based on lipo-chitooligosaccharides,naturally occurring plant signal molecules. As climate change increases abiotic stress on crops, these powerful tools help in a number of ways. Leaf-applied Ratchet®, for example, increases the rate at which soy and corn plant leaves take up carbon dioxide. That supports increased photosynthetic activity for higher sugar production and ultimately higher yields. Other LCO products, including Torque IF® are applied to soil or on-seed to stimulate mycorrhizal germination. Mycorrhizae are naturally-occurring soil microbes. They extract nitrogen from the air and – with the help of LCOs – convert it into a plant nutrient. Torque IF® harnesses the power of these microbes to increase corn crops’ access to soil nutrients and water. Our LCO products can even help repair flood-damaged soil by boosting microbial populations.

increased photosynthetic

...through pest management

Climate change increases the complexity of pest management. That makes solutions that work with nature even more important in crop protection and yield maintenance. Our biocontrol solutions use naturally-occurring microbes. These work in a range of ways to reduce disease pressure. Products such as Taegro® 2 and Actinovate increase plant defense mechanisms, produce beneficial metabolites and outcompete pathogens. All while reducing farmers’ dependence on harmful chemicals.

These are just a few examples from our broad portfolio of solutions that work with nature to build crop resistance in the face of climate change. So let’s bring on the power of biotech to help secure our food systems.

pest management

And wait there’s more:

Lower emissions and healthieraquatic environments

Agriculture is also a major driver of climate change. It emits approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gases. One source of these emissions is synthetic fertilizer production. Our BioAg solutions complement these fertilizers, potentially reducing their usage. JumpStart®, for example, can reduce the carbon footprint of one ton of corn by as much as 15%. Applied to all cornfields in America, that could add up to CO2e savings of almost four million metric tons.

JumpStart® also helps to protect aquatic environments. That’s because so much phosphate applied in fertilizer gets bound to soil particles and other elements. Typically up to 90% goes unused in the year it's applied, while at least 25% never gets used. This unused phosphate can run off into aquatic environments and ultimately lead to dead zones and algal blooms. By releasing bound phosphate for use by crops, JumpStart® can help reduce runoff.
 

seedling in soil

But what will the impact be?

"Climate resilience is essential to ensure food securityin the face of a rapidly changing climate. Farmers need a wide range of tools to implement effective climate adaptation strategies. We’re extending their toolbox with smart solutions that harness the power of natural plant-microbe relationships."

Jason Ward
Head of Commercial Operations, Novozymes BioAg, North America

Jason Ward

How do microbes and enzymes work in BioAg?

After plants, microbes such as bacteria and fungi are the earth’s dominant lifeforms. They play a huge role in the key functions of many organisms. Soil microbes are a great example. Through symbiotic relationships, and often using enzymes, they deliver essential nutrients to plants. They can even protect plants from insects and disease. BioAg harnesses the power of these naturally-occurring microbes and enzymes to develop solutions that drive crop performance.

microbes and enzymes crop illustration

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