Innovation in Crop Protection Among Leading Ways to Minimize Food Waste at Farm Level
One broad category that was cast overboard during the pandemic was sustainability, writes UPL’s Boomer Cardinale at CropLife. How quaint it was back in 2019 to be worrying about plastic straws and plastic shopping bags. Now in 2021, the streets are littered with single-use everything. I’m wondering if there is now a big blob of disposable face masks floating around somewhere in the south Pacific.
I am not here to punch back at plastics or disposable safety products, instead my focus stems from the stalemate we have with overall food waste in the world. In some areas of the world, we have too much food that goes to waste and in other areas of the world, not enough food. What a sad dynamic in an integrated global food economy!
I have traveled to dozens of countries and even lived overseas. I can proudly declare that of all the amazing things that the good ol’ USA has to offer, the plethora of food output is easily in the top five. Who needs 15 different BBQ sauces, 20 flavors of hummus dips, 30 varieties of Oreos fillings, and Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks?
Americans of course! But with our bountiful food offerings comes an enormous amount of food waste and energy output all along the food value chain. To keep my word count to a minimum, I wanted to focus on sustainable approaches to the food waste issue at farm level here in the U.S.
Food waste is inevitable in most farming systems. During a typical crop growing cycle, the farmer will face a slew of variability in weather, weeds, bugs, disease, and market shifts. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that “plants make up about 80% of the food we consume; while about 40% of food crops are lost by agricultural pests.”
Of the crops that make it to harvest day, another 40% on average of marketable crops are left to rot according to the The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) at NC State University.
“There are a whole host of reasons why a perfectly safe, nutritious crop may be left in the field,” write Nancy Creamer and Lisa Johnson on behalf of CEFS. “A combination of reasons is common. Timing and weather are critical when it comes to producing a crop. Pollination may have failed due to poor weather, leading to misshapenness; a nutrient deficiency could have produced a discoloration; or there could be minor pest damage that doesn’t affect the quality of the vegetable itself.”
So how can the grower better manage next season’s food waste? Here are five suggestions from value chain stakeholders.
1. More Innovation in Crop Protection
Since pests are still responsible for 40% of crop failure worldwide, then the world needs to continue to support pest management solutions. Increasing the odds of marketable crops at field level must include soil health, seed treatments, and plant protection programs based on both conventional and biological pesticides.
Advancement in scientific discovery of tomorrow’s molecules and microbes while promoting the field of agronomy must continue to prosper. There is no need for a link here, simply Google the term ‘crop protection’ and read how the top ag chem companies are committed to feeding the world while also minimizing food waste.