The "C" Side of the Agriculture Sector
Anticipating its annual Congress, Aapresid shares its view on agriculture in the coming year.
Agri-food systems are gaining global prominence. Conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine war show the fragility of the balance between food supply and demand. On the other hand, agriculture plays a dual role in climate change, since it is responsible for one third of emissions and one of the selectors that suffer most from the consequences of global warming.
For this reason, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), held in Egypt in November, included for the first time, a day dedicated to agriculture. In this conference, leading institutions such as the Asociación Argentina de Productores en Siembra Directa (Aapresid) were convened, and a road map was drawn up for the coming years in order to increase financing and to contribute to mitigation efforts in the area.
This scenario makes us rethink agri-food systems. Such task must begin right now: to guarantee enough healthy food, in a sustained manner, reducing emissions and contributing to the global aim of stagnating the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.
Carbon is at the center of global discussions with two aspects: carbon capture and emission on the one hand, and carbon footprint on the other. In relation to the latter, Aapresid’s President, Marcelo Torres, states that "there is a growing need for the chain and the consumer to integrate, generating differentiated markets for products with a low carbon footprint." This is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges: the ability to produce food, fiber and bioenergy with a lower carbon footprint. "To achieve this, the key will be moving towards conservation agriculture models."
These models are based on pillars such as no-till farming, crop rotation and the promotion of biodiversity, balanced nutrition and the adoption of crops and strategies whose purpose is not only the production of grains or income, but the provision of recovery services and ecosystem care services. Apart from this, these models maximize the sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere in order to transform it into biomass thanks to the photosynthesis and capture it in the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon on the planet: the soil.
This leads to another challenge: agri-food chains will have to measure and guarantee this lower carbon footprint. It will be necessary to continue adjusting indicators in order to measure variables such as the emission balance of raw materials, biodiversity, soil health or impact indexes due to the use of phytosanitary products, on the one hand; and to promote certification schemes for products that arrive at an increasingly aware and demanding society in their consumption practices, on the other.
The Art of Building Networks
Another challenge for the coming years will be the way in which we create solutions that improve production. "It is imperative to build collaborative innovation networks between producers, researchers and technologies provided by the private sector. In these networks, the producer must be the main character: he is the only one who knows local issues, and while science provides scientific knowledge, producers provide irreplaceable empirical knowledge. These models guarantee sustainable solutions, fitting to the local environment, easily applicable and scalable, explains Torres.
Regarding this point, Aapresid is carrying out more than 20 projects throughout the country using this methodology. Among those projects related to carbon, there is a project in the Gran Chaco that works on the design of landscapes capable of preserving natural biodiversity and sustaining the development of the soil with sustainable production schemes that sequester more carbon.
The Carbon Gap Network is 'carbon agriculture in all its splendor': it is a project that seeks to determine the current and potential carbon stock of agricultural soils in different environments, in order to design productive systems that maximize carbon capture and reduce these gaps.
Networking cannot be restricted to the local region. Nowadays we see progress in public/private and private initiatives, but little interaction between States. "We must strengthen the relations between countries for the construction and positioning of a common agenda. Latin America has much to contribute in building collaborative innovation networks. At the same time, it is a leader in conservation agriculture," said the Vice President of Aapresid.
Besides, it aims to target other food exporting countries. Australia is a successful case of public-private interaction to consolidate productive chains and strategies for the insertion of its products in the world.
Opportunity Knocks Only Once
For years, in global forums, there were doubts about Latin American agriculture, regarding some aspects, such as biotechnology and deforestation.
Leaving aside protectionist interests that certain countries - many of which long ago destroyed their natural biomes - hide behind these criticisms, this debate has prevented quality conversations. "With this we are not approving practices such as deforestation; we are saying that the discussion cannot end there: it is necessary to mention serious solutions, understanding the needs and challenges of agri-food systems with a holistic approach."
However, as is always the case when we are in trouble, the Russian conflict 'changed' the focus of the talks towards a more rational and science-based approach. This situation leads us to a unique opportunity: "Argentina and the region are leaders in producing food, fiber and energy with a lower carbon footprint, under science- and technology-based schemes. We have the knowledge, the experience and the tools. In addition to a political-economic framework of predictability - in line with any initiative that seeks sustainability -, we need dialogue and strategic alliances," Torres concluded.
Antes de que te vayas,
¿te gustó este contenido?