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7.5: Sustainable Agriculture - Biology

7.5: Sustainable Agriculture - Biology


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Sustainable agriculture” was addressed by Congress in the 1990 “Farm Bill”. Under that law, “the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs;
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”

Organic Farming is Good for Farmers, Consumers and the Environment

Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, or GMOs.

Organic production, with the corresponding practices to maintain soil fertility and soil health is therefore a more benign alternative to conventional, high-value horticulture. The organic food movement has been endorsed by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, which maintains in a 2007 report that organic farming fights hunger, tackles climate change, and is good for farmers, consumers, and the environment. The strongest benefits of organic agriculture are its use of resources that are independent of fossil fuels, are locally available, incur minimal environmental stresses, and are cost effective.

IPM is a Combination of Common-Sense Practices

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) refers to a mix of farmer-driven, ecologically-based pest control practices that seeks to reduce reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides. It involves (a) managing pests (keeping them below economically damaging levels) rather than seeking to eradicate them; (b) relying, to the extent possible, on non-chemical measures to keep pest populations low; and (c) selecting and applying pesticides, when they have to be used, in a way that minimizes adverse effects on beneficial organisms, humans, and the environment. It is commonly understood that applying an IPM approach does not necessarily mean eliminating pesticide use, although this is often the case because pesticides are often over-used for a variety of reasons.

The IPM approach regards pesticides as mainly short-term corrective measures when more ecologically based control measures are not working adequately (sometimes referred to as using pesticides as the “last resort”). In those cases when pesticides are used, they should be selected and applied in such a manner as to minimize the amount of disruption that they cause to the environment, such as using products that are non-persistent and applying them in the most targeted way possible).

Biological Control

Biological control (biocontrol) is the use of one biological species to reduce populations of a different species. There has been a substantial increase in commercialization of biocontrol products, such as beneficial insects, cultivated predators and natural or non-toxic pest control products. Biocontrol is being mainstreamed to major agricultural commodities, such as cotton, corn and most commonly vegetable crops. Biocontrol is also slowly emerging in vector control in public health and in areas that for a long time mainly focused on chemical vector control in mosquito/malaria—and black fly/onchocerciasis—control programs. Successful and commercialized examples of biocontrol include ladybugs to depress aphid populations, parasitic wasps to reduce moth populations, use of the bacterium Bacillus thuringenensis to kill mosquito and moth larvae, and introduction of fungi, such as Trichoderma, to suppress fungal-caused plant diseases, leaf beetle (Galerucella calmariensis) to suppress purple loosestrife, a noxious weed (Figure (PageIndex{1})). In all of these cases, the idea is not to completely destroy the pathogen or pest, but rather to reduce the damage below economically significant values.

Intercropping Promotes Plant Interactions

Intercropping means growing two or more crops in close proximity to each other during part or all of their life cycles to promote soil improvement, biodiversity, and pest management. Incorporating intercropping principles into an agricultural operation increases diversity and interaction between plants, arthropods, mammals, birds and microorganisms resulting in a more stable crop-ecosystem and a more efficient use of space, water, sunlight, and nutrients (Figure (PageIndex{2})). This collaborative type of crop management mimics nature and is subject to fewer pest outbreaks, improved nutrient cycling and crop nutrient uptake, and increased water infiltration and moisture retention. Soil quality, water quality and wildlife habitat all benefit.

Organic Farming Practices Reduce Unnecessary Input Use

In modern agricultural practices, heavy machinery is used to prepare the seedbed for planting, to control weeds, and to harvest the crop. The use of heavy equipment has many advantages in saving time and labor, but can cause compaction of soil and disruption of the natural soil organisms. The problem with soil compaction is that increased soil density limits root penetration depth and may inhibit proper plant growth.

Alternative practices generally encourage minimal tillage or no tillage methods. With proper planning, this can simultaneously limit compaction, protect soil organisms, reduce costs (if performed correctly), promote water infiltration, and help to prevent topsoil erosion (Figure (PageIndex{3})).

Tillage of fields does help to break up clods that were previously compacted, so best practices may vary at sites with different soil textures and composition. Another aspect of soil tillage is that it may lead to more rapid decomposition of organic matter due to greater soil aeration. Over large areas of farmland, this has the unintended consequence of releasing more carbon and nitrous oxides (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming effects. In no-till farming, carbon can actually become sequestered into the soil. Thus, no-till farming may be advantageous to sustainability issues on the local scale and the global scale. No-till systems of conservation farming have proved a major success in Latin America and are being used in South Asia and Africa.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotations are planned sequences of crops over time on the same field. Rotating crops provides productivity benefits by improving soil nutrient levels and breaking crop pest cycles. Farmers may also choose to rotate crops in order to reduce their production risk through diversification or to manage scarce resources, such as labor, during planting and harvesting timing. This strategy reduces the pesticide costs by naturally breaking the cycle of weeds, insects and diseases. Also, grass and legumes in a rotation protect water quality by preventing excess nutrients or chemicals from entering water supplies.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO SPRAYING: BOLLWORM CONTROL IN SHANDONG

Farmers in Shandong (China) have been using innovative methods to control bollworm infestation in cotton when this insect became resistant to most pesticides. Among the control measures implemented were:

  1. The use of pest resistant cultivars and interplanting of cotton with wheat or maize.
  2. Use of lamps and poplar twigs to trap and kill adults to lessen the number of adults.
  3. If pesticides were used, they were applied on parts of cotton plant’s stem rather than by spraying the whole field (to protect natural enemies of the bollworm).

These and some additional biological control tools have proved to be effective in controlling insect populations and insect resistance, protecting surroundings and lowering costs.

The Future of the Sustainable Agriculture Concept

Many in the agricultural community have adopted the sense of urgency and direction pointed to by the sustainable agriculture concept. Sustainability has become an integral component of many government, commercial, and non-profit agriculture research efforts, and it is beginning to be woven into agricultural policy. Increasing numbers of farmers and ranchers have embarked on their own paths to sustainability, incorporating integrated and innovative approaches into their own enterprises.


7.5: Sustainable Agriculture - Biology

All articles published by MDPI are made immediately available worldwide under an open access license. No special permission is required to reuse all or part of the article published by MDPI, including figures and tables. For articles published under an open access Creative Common CC BY license, any part of the article may be reused without permission provided that the original article is clearly cited.

Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication.

The Feature Paper can be either an original research article, a substantial novel research study that often involves several techniques or approaches, or a comprehensive review paper with concise and precise updates on the latest progress in the field that systematically reviews the most exciting advances in scientific literature. This type of paper provides an outlook on future directions of research or possible applications.

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.


7.5: Sustainable Agriculture - Biology

All articles published by MDPI are made immediately available worldwide under an open access license. No special permission is required to reuse all or part of the article published by MDPI, including figures and tables. For articles published under an open access Creative Common CC BY license, any part of the article may be reused without permission provided that the original article is clearly cited.

Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication.

The Feature Paper can be either an original research article, a substantial novel research study that often involves several techniques or approaches, or a comprehensive review paper with concise and precise updates on the latest progress in the field that systematically reviews the most exciting advances in scientific literature. This type of paper provides an outlook on future directions of research or possible applications.

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.


BASF’s new focused approach boosts agricultural innovation pipeline by 25%

BASF announced today an increased projected peak sales potential for its innovation pipeline of agricultural solutions of more than €7.5 billion. By 2029, the company will launch more than 30 key projects, including novel seeds and traits, chemical and biological crop protection, digital products and new formulations broadening its offer. In line with its strategy in agriculture, the company increases focus on connected solutions for farmers to enable balancing agricultural productivity, environmental protection and society’s needs. BASF will build on its research and development (R&D) investment for agricultural solutions over recent years with a planned expenditure in 2020 around the prior-year level. In 2019 alone, the company spent €879 million in research and development in the Agricultural Solutions division representing around 11% of sales for the segment.

“Agriculture is so central to our lives that it has a powerful impact on everyone. That’s why we must address the environmental, climate and societal challenges that are becoming more pressing every day. At BASF, we are open to all great and new ideas that help us drive sustainable innovation in agriculture and create value to society. Our aim is to find practical solutions that enable higher yielding and more stress-tolerant crop production, reduce farming’s CO2 footprint and increase biodiversity,” said Vincent Gros, President of BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division. “We have an outstanding innovation pipeline and invest continually to identify and develop products and solutions that benefit both farmers and the environment.”

Sharper focus in R&D projects

BASF’s industry-leading position in sustainable agriculture is based on active R&D portfolio steering and sustainability criteria that are fully integrated into the entire process. “Our new strategy has sharpened our innovation focus around specific agricultural crop systems. We are applying all available scientific technologies to develop sustainable solutions that meet long-term economical, ecological and societal needs,” said Peter Eckes, President Bioscience Research at BASF.

Higher yielding and stress tolerant crops for a lower CO2 footprint

To meet today’s farming challenges, BASF’s innovation pipeline is focused on new technologies and solutions for four strategic customer segments and their respective crop systems:

  • soy, corn, cotton
  • wheat, canola (oilseed rape), sunflowers
  • rice
  • fruit and vegetables.

An example of the company’s R&D innovation strength is demonstrated through strong pipeline projects in the crop system that includes wheat, canola (oilseed rape), sunflower – addressing a market valued at around €12 billion. In this market, BASF is developing innovative solutions for climate resilient farming with higher yielding as well as drought and heat tolerant crops that require fewer resources, such as water and plant protection products. They enable farmers to sustainably increase yields and reduce tillage, thereby minimizing erosion and greenhouse gas emissions. Examples include:

  • Seeds & Traits: BASF’s InVigor ® pod shatter reduction and clubrootresistant trait technologies for canola will aid in protecting yield potential from clubroot and deliver added flexibility for growers at harvest. In addition, for this season the company has just launched ‘300 series’ InVigor canola featuring three new hybrids that offer growers improvements either in yield, pod shatter reduction protection, or clubroot resistance. BASF is also leading the industry by launching InVigor RATE, a target plant population recommendation supported with innovative seeding rate to further optimize the performance of the company’s canola seed.
    Mid-decade, BASF will be introducing LibertyLink ®yellow-seed canola which can be grown under more challenging conditions and will provide new rotation options for wheat growers in drier areas of North America, where drought and heat stress make regular canola a less viable crop.
    Worldwide, the growing demand for wheat requires significant investment in innovation. BASF is a leader in the development of hybrid wheat seeds, with market entry expected by mid-decade. Hybrid wheat from BASF will bring transformative change to how wheat is produced and will provide farmers in North America and Europe seeds to optimize yield, stabilize production and improve grain quality. In addition, the hybrid wheat approach will give breeders new opportunities to adapt and improve plant characteristics to make significant contributions to addressing the environmental challenges of the future.
  • Herbicides: To ensure that farmers around the world continue to have access to effective weed management, BASF has developed two novel herbicide active ingredients, Luximo ® and Tirexor ® . From 2020, these will give among others wheat farmers new possibilities to manage difficult-to-control grasses and broadleaf weeds. Additionally, BASF is working on further new mode of actions to manage herbicide resistant weeds and allow farming practices that reduce CO2 footprint, such as no-till farming.
  • Fungicides: BASF recently launched Revysol ® , a fungicide active ingredient that meets the highest regulatory standards and offers outstanding biological performance against a range of difficult-to-control pathogens in specialty and row crops. In addition, the novel fungicide active ingredient Pavecto ® , co-developed with Sumitomo Chemical, will provide farmers with a unique tool for resistance management. BASF has classified products based on Pavecto and Revysol as ‘Accelerator’ products due to their substantial sustainability contribution in the value chain. BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division is actively steering its portfolio towards sustainable solutions that contribute significantly to BASF Group’s 2025 sales target of €22 billion with Accelerator products.
  • Insecticides: To further expand its insecticide portfolio and offer additional solutions to farmers, BASF has developed Broflanilide together with Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc. The new active ingredient, to be launched from 2020 onwards, will help farmers protect specialty and field crops from insect pests such as potato beetles. Seed treatment applications based on Broflanilide, marketed under the Teraxxa™ brand, will target difficult to manage wireworms in cereal crops. Together with the recently launched insecticide Inscalis ® , Broflanilide is part of the next wave of insecticide innovations that will be launched by BASF throughout this decade.

Additionally, BASF is developing comprehensive innovation portfolios across the entire crop cycles for the company’s remaining strategic crop systems. This includes eight active ingredients, as well as unique traits and high-performing seeds in soybean, canola, cotton and vegetables.

Digitalization supports modern agriculture

Growers using BASF’s digital products marketed under the xarvio ® Digital Farming Solutions brand can achieve higher yields with fewer natural resources and crop inputs. With BASF’s latest digital outcome-based business model, xarvio HEALTHY FIELDS, farmers benefit from a transparent field- and season-specific crop protection service, reduced workloads through outsourced spray contractors, real-time monitoring, as well as a success guarantee for their fields. xarvio digital products enable more precise application of crop protection products, nutrient management, automated buffer zones and biodiversity monitoring. They are currently helping more than 2.5 million farmers in more than 120 countries to reduce the environmental impact of farming and improve food production around the world.

For BASF, the potential of its innovation pipeline goes beyond the farm: With the e3 ® Sustainability Cotton Program, the company helps farmers in the United States meet downstream customer demand for more traceable and sustainable supply chains in the fashion industry. Collaborating with partners down the value chain, e3 ® cotton – namely grown with BASF’s Fibermax ® and Stoneville ® cotton seed – can be traced from the farmer to the retailer and shows end consumers that their clothes have been produced in a fair, economically viable and environmentally responsible way. BASF is the only company providing this level of traceability. This program has increased demand for fiber meeting e3 ® standards, creating a higher market price for the grower.

To find out more about BASF’s innovation pipeline in agriculture, please visit our Innovation website.


7.5: Sustainable Agriculture - Biology

All articles published by MDPI are made immediately available worldwide under an open access license. No special permission is required to reuse all or part of the article published by MDPI, including figures and tables. For articles published under an open access Creative Common CC BY license, any part of the article may be reused without permission provided that the original article is clearly cited.

Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication.

The Feature Paper can be either an original research article, a substantial novel research study that often involves several techniques or approaches, or a comprehensive review paper with concise and precise updates on the latest progress in the field that systematically reviews the most exciting advances in scientific literature. This type of paper provides an outlook on future directions of research or possible applications.

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.


Addressing social attitudes toward lethal control of wildlife in national parks

Article Impact Statement: : The selection of tools to reduce wildlife impacts in parks is relevant when avoiding conflicts in environmental-agenda planning.

Abstract

The extraordinary population growth of certain ungulate species is increasingly a concern in agroforestry areas because overabundance may negatively affect natural environments and human livelihoods. However, society may have negative perceptions of killing wildlife to reduce their numbers and mitigate damage. We used an online survey that included a choice experiment to determine Spanish citizens’ (n = 190) preferences toward wildlife population control measures related to negative effects of ungulate overabundance (negative impacts on vegetation and other wildlife species and disease transmission to livestock) in 2 agroforestry national parks in Spain. We used latent-class and willingness-to-pay in space models to analyze survey results. Two percent of respondents thought a national park should have no human intervention even if lack of management may cause environmental degradation, whereas 95% of respondents favored efforts to reduce damage caused by overabundant ungulate species. We estimated human well-being losses of survey respondents when sustainable effects of deer overabundance on the environment became unsustainable effects and well-being gains when sustainable effects transitioned to no visible effects. We found that the type of wildlife-control program was a very relevant issue for the respondents indirect control in which killing was avoided was the preferred action. Sixty-six percent of respondents agreed with the option of hunters paying for culling animals to reduce ungulate impacts rather than management cost coming out of taxes, whereas 19% of respondents were against this option and willing to pay for other solutions in national parks. Our results suggest that killing wildlife in national parks could be a socially acceptable tool to manage overabundance problems in certain contexts, but it could also generate social conflicts.

Abstract

Soluciones para las Actitudes Sociales hacia el Control Letal de la Fauna en Parques Nacionales

Resumen

El extraordinario crecimiento de ciertas poblaciones de ungulados es cada vez más preocupante en las áreas agroforestales ya que la sobreabundancia puede afectar negativamente al ambiente natural y el sustento humano. Sin embargo, la sociedad puede percibir negativamente el exterminio de fauna para reducir sus números y mitigar el daño. Usamos una encuesta en línea que incluía un experimento de elección para determinar las preferencias de los ciudadanos españoles (n = 190) por las medidas de control poblacional relacionadas con los efectos negativos de la sobreabundancia de ungulados (impactos negativos sobre la vegetación y otras especies silvestres y el contagio de enfermedades al ganado) en dos parques nacionales agroforestales de España. Usamos la clase latente y la disposición para pagar dentro modelos espaciales para analizar los resultados de la encuesta. El 2% de los respondientes creyó que un parque nacional no debería tener intervención humana, incluso si la falta de manejo pudiera causar una degradación ambiental. Mientras tanto, el 95% de los respondientes estuvieron a favor de los esfuerzos para reducir el daño causado por la sobreabundancia de ungulados. Cuando los efectos sustentables sobre el ambiente de la sobreabundancia de venados se convertían en efectos insostenibles, los estimamos como pérdidas de bienestar humano para los respondientes de la encuesta cuando los efectos sustentables transitaron hacia la nula visibilidad de efectos, los estimamos como ganancias de bienestar. Descubrimos que el tipo de programa de control de fauna era un tema muy relevante para los respondientes el control indirecto, en el que se evita el exterminio, fue la acción preferida por los respondientes. El 66% de los respondientes estuvo de acuerdo con la opción de que los cazadores paguen por sacrificar animales para reducir el impacto de los ungulados en lugar de que el costo del manejo provenga de los impuestos, mientras que el 19% de los respondientes estuvo en contra de esta opción y dispuesto a pagar por otras soluciones en los parques nacionales. Nuestros resultados sugieren que el exterminio de vida silvestre en los parques nacionales podría ser una herramienta socialmente aceptable para manejar problemas de sobreabundancia en ciertos contextos, pero también podría generar algunos conflictos sociales.

一些有蹄类动物种群数量的飞速增长在农林业领域日益受到关注, 因为其种群数量过多可能会对自然环境和人类生计产生负面影响。然而, 社会公众对于猎杀野生动物以减少数量来减轻其影响的做法可能存在负面看法。我们通过选择实验在线调查, 确定了西班牙公民 (n = 190) 对西班牙两个农林复合经营的国家公园中与有蹄类数量过多负面影响 (对植被及其它野生动物的负面作用、向家畜传播疾病) 有关的野生动物种群控制措施的偏好性。我们在空间模型中使用潜在类别和支付意愿分析了调查结果, 结果显示, 百分之二的受访者认为, 即便缺少管理可能导致环境退化, 国家公园中也不应进行人为干预 而百分之九十五的受访者则赞成采取措施来减少因有蹄类动物数量过多造成的破坏。我们估计, 当鹿群数量过多造成的环境可持续影响转变为不可持续影响时, 受访者的人类福祉会有所损失, 而当可持续影响转变为不明显的影响时, 人类福祉则会有所提升。我们还发现, 受访者认为野生动物控制计划的类型十分重要, 应优先选择避免猎杀的间接控制方法。百分之六十六的受访者赞同由猎人为选择性猎杀有蹄类动物以减少影响而付费的做法, 而不是从税收中支付管理成本 而百分之十九的受访者反对这一做法, 并愿意为国家公园的其它解决方案付费。我们的结果表明, 在某些情况下国家公园猎杀野生动物以应对动物数量过多的问题或能得到社会认可, 但也可能引发社会冲突。【翻译: 胡怡思 审校: 聂永刚】


Soil quality: Attributes and relationship to alternative and sustainable agriculture

Different chemical, physical, and biological properties of a soil interact in complex ways that determine its potential fitness or capacity to produce healthy and nutritious crops. The integration of these properties andine resulting level of productivity often is referred to as “soil quality.” Soil quality can be defined as an inherent attribute of a soil that is inferred from its specific characteristics and observations (e.g., compactability, erodibility, and fertility). The term also refers to the soil's structural integrity, which imparts resistance to erosion, and to the loss of plant nutrients and organic matter. Soil quality often is related to soil degradation, which can be defined as the time rate of change in soil quality.

Soil quality should not be limited to soil productivity, but should encompass environmental quality, human and animal health, and food safety and quality. There is inadequate reliable information on how changes in soil quality directly affect food quality, or indirectly affect human and animal health. In characterizing soil quality, biological properties have received less emphasis than chemical and physical properties, because their effects are difficult to measure, predict, or quantify. Improved soil quality often is indicated by increased infiltration, aeration, macropores, aggregate size, aggregate stability, and soil organic matter, and by decreased bulk density, soil resistance, erosion, and nutrient runoff. These are useful, but future research should seek to identify and quantify reliable and meaningful biological/ecological indicators of soil quality, such as total species diversity or genetic diversity of beneficial soil microorganisms, insects, and animals.

Because these biological/ecological indexes of soil quality are dynamic, they will require effective monitoring and assessment programs to develop appropriate databases for research and technology transfer. We need to know how such indexes are affected by management inputs, whether they can serve as early warning indicators of soil degradation, and how they relate to the sustainability of agricultural systems.


BASF strengthens innovation pipeline for sustainable agriculture

BASF strengthens its activities in research and development (R&D) for sustainable agricultural innovations, helping farmers to overcome environmental and economic challenges as well as meeting consumers’ demand for more sustainably produced food. With solutions launching throughout the next decade, the pipeline supports the company’s aim to annually increase its sales share of agricultural solutions with substantial contribution to sustainability by 7%. By 2030, more than 30 major R&D projects will complement BASF’s connected offer of seeds and seed treatment products, chemical and biological solutions, as well as digital services. This brings the pipeline to an estimated peak sales potential of more than €7.5 billion. In 2020, BASF spent €840 million in R&D in the Agricultural Solutions segment representing around 11% of the segment’s sales. In 2021, the company will continue to invest in R&D of agricultural innovations at a high level.

“BASF leads in solutions for sustainable agriculture. In addition to developing innovations, we also provide a connected offer, combining effective products as well as new technologies and services, tailored to customers’ needs and their different crop systems around the world,” said Vincent Gros, President of BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division. BASF has committed to ambitious sustainability targets for its agriculture business by 2030: Besides increasing the annual sales share of sustainable agricultural solutions, farmers will be supported in reducing their CO2 emissions by 30% per ton of crop produced. Further, the company strives to apply digital technologies on more than 400 million hectares of farmland cumulatively by 2030, while continuing to ensure the safe use of its products. BASF remains committed to developing solutions that drive the transformation of the agricultural food system for the better. “Sustainability is engrained in our entire R&D process. It leads the way in how we develop our innovations, which support farmers produce more and better while preserving natural resources,” Gros emphasized.

Connected offer for productive and environmentally friendly farming

By 2050, farmers will have to feed an estimated 9.7 billion people, requiring an increase in productivity of 50%. Digitalization has the potential to make an important contribution to this. The company is therefore advancing its digital technologies together with other innovations across its whole portfolio. This combination allows farmers to achieve better yield on existing arable land, while supporting biodiversity preservation.

In November 2020, BASF and Bosch signed a joint venture agreement to globally market and sell smart farming solutions from a single source in the future. Through the joint venture, which is subject to the approval of the relevant antitrust authorities, the companies plan to launch the Smart Spraying solution this year. The new technology recognizes weeds and allows a precise application of herbicides, which maximizes productive land-use and reduces the environmental impact by lowering the volume of herbicides applied. In addition, the new outcome-based business model xarvio ® HEALTHY FIELDS provides farmers a tailored, optimized field- and season-specific crop protection strategy, enabling them to achieve agreed yield forecasts. This way, the company answers modern farming challenges, requirements by society and political action plans, contributing to more sustainable farming. BASF’s connected offer further extends the development of herbicide-tolerant traits and chemical crop protection tailored to these traits. Combined with solutions to control weeds before they emerge, these enable no-till farming, which leads to less CO2 released from the soil, reduces soil erosion and promotes humus buildup.

Meeting growing demand for sustainably produced food

To continuously steer the product portfolio towards even more sustainable solutions, BASF applies the Sustainable Solution Steering method, which is unique in the industry and third-party audited, in the early stages of research and development. “The R&D approach to agricultural solutions has fundamentally changed in the past two decades. We are successfully driving sustainable innovations by focusing equally on the future needs of farmers, society, and the environment,” said Peter Eckes, President Bioscience Research at BASF.

The company’s advanced insecticides portfolio is one example of successful Sustainable Solution Steering. It offers solutions that increase agricultural productivity and reduce environmental impact, creating added value for society. Axalion™ active ingredient developed by BASF, pending regulatory approval, is the company’s latest insecticide innovation in this context. With its novel mode of action, it helps farmers safeguard their yield without negatively impacting soil and water organisms or birds. When applied according to the respective label instructions, Axalion based products will not impact beneficial insects. The new compound is also an essential tool in preventing insecticide resistance. Other examples from the company’s portfolio include recently launched, regionally tailored products based on Inscalis ® for North and South America and Asia as well as first registrations globally of Broflanilide in South America and Asia.

New seed varieties from BASF help farmers produce enough healthy and affordable food in an environmentally friendly way. For example, the company’s latest spinach seeds varieties are resistant to downy mildew, one of the most destructive fungal diseases. They prevent complete crop loss, cover all growing seasons and have a significant market share in fresh organic spinach. These features offer added value for growers, processors, retailers and consumers. BASF also invests in research on indoor growing systems, such as growing lettuce in hydroponic systems. These require less land, save water compared to traditional open-field cultivation and reduce the need for conventional crop protection. The indoor technology allows lettuce to be grown regardless of geographic location, so it can be produced closer to the consumer. This avoids long transport distances and reduces the associated emissions.

To find out more about BASF’s innovation pipeline in agriculture, please visit our innovation website www.AgInnovation.basf.com.

Sustainable Solution Steering

BASF has developed the Sustainable Solution Steering method to enhance the sustainability of its portfolio. This voluntary assessment is unique in the chemical industry and independently audited by third parties. By the end of the 2020 business year, the company has conducted sustainability analyses and assessments for 98.4% of its relevant portfolio of more than 57,000 specific product applications. The transparent classification of products enables BASF to systematically improve them and make its whole portfolio more sustainable. Products that make a substantial contribution to sustainability in the value chain are Accelerators, which will amount to €22 billion in BASF Group sales by 2025. BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division also assesses its entire product portfolio against clearly defined sustainability criteria. By integrating industry leading and third-party audited sustainability criteria at an early stage of its R&D process, the division continuously steers research and development towards an ever more sustainable portfolio. More information on BASF’s Sustainable Solution Steering can be found here.


Factors affecting the nutritional quality of crops

Several factors can directly or indirectly affect the nutritional quality of crops. Among these are soil factors, such as pH, available nutrients, texture, organic matter content and soil-water relationships weather and climatic factors, including temperature, rainfall and light intensity the crop and cultivar postharvest handling and storage and fertilizer applications and cultural practices. This paper deals primarily with fertilizer and cultural management practices, and on certain environmental factors that affect the nutritional quality of field crops and of fruits and vegetables. Earlier research that has investigated the nutritional status of crops grown with either chemical fertilizers or organic fertilizers is discussed. These studies often have given contradictory results on crop yields and on crops' mineral and vitamin contents. Other factors, such as maturity at harvest, postharvest handling and storage, anti-nutritive components, and residues of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are reviewed with respect to food safety and quality, and their implications for human and animal health. Future research needs are identified so that comparable results and valid comparisons can be obtained to identify the best management practices to ensure that food is safe and nutritious for the consumer.


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Extended Data Fig. 1 Allelic variation at the GRF4 locus affects GRF4 mRNA abundance and root (<>^>>>>_>>^>>) uptake.

a, Positional cloning indicates the equivalence of GRF4 with qNGR2 (nitrogen-mediated growth response 2). Successive maps show progressive narrowing of focus of qNGR2 (red dot, using recombination break points and linked DNA markers) to an approximately 2.7-kb region on chromosome 2 flanked by molecular markers L17 and L18 and overlapping candidate gene LOC_02g47280 (also known as GRF4). The start ATG (nucleotide 1) and close TGA (nucleotide 3385) of GRF4 are shown, together with the protein-coding DNA sequence (thick black bars). The target site for miR396 is indicated by an asterisk. The structure of a CRISPR–Cas9-generated grf4 mutant 91-bp deletion allele spanning parts of exon 1 and intron 1 is shown. b, (<>^<15><< m>>_<4>^<+>) uptake rates of roots of BC2F2 progeny (derived from a NJ6 × NM73 cross) homozygous or heterozygous for GRF4 NGR2 or GRF4 ngr2 grown in high nitrogen supply (1.25 mM NH4NO3). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 9). Different letters denote significant differences (P < 0.05) from a Duncan’s multiple range test. c, GRF4 mRNA abundance in plants (genotypes as shown) relative to the abundance in NJ6 (set to one). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). Different letters denote significant differences (P < 0.05) from a Duncan’s multiple range test. d, Natural varietal GRF4 allelic variation. Nucleotide position relative to the GRF4 start ATG is shown in a. SNPs shared between varieties NM73, RD23 and TZZL1 are highlighted. Sequences representative of GRF4 promoter haplotypes A, B and C (see main text) are shown. e, GRF4 mRNA abundance in various rice varieties under the high nitrogen conditions (1.25 mM NH4NO3), GRF4 promoter haplotypes are indicated. Abundance data are all relative to the abundance of rice Actin2 mRNA. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). Different letters denote significant differences (P < 0.05) from a Duncan’s multiple range test. f, Comparisons of GRF4 mRNA abundance in selected rice varieties grown in between high (HN, 1.25 mM NH4NO3) and low (LN, 0.375 mM NH4NO3) nitrogen conditions. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). Abundance data are all relative to the high nitrogen condition (set to one). **P < 0.05 compared to high nitrogen in a two-sided Student’s t-test. g, Relative abundances of rice miR396 family members in NJ6 plants grown at different levels of nitrogen supply (0.15N, 0.1875 mM NH4NO3 0.3N, 0.375 mM NH4NO3 0.6N, 0.75 mM NH4NO3 1N, 1.25 mM NH4NO3), shown relative to the abundance in plants grown in 1N conditions (set to one). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). Different letters denote significant differences (P < 0.05) from a Duncan’s multiple range test.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Comparisons NJ6, NJ6-sd1 and NJ6-sd1-GRF4 ngr2 isogenic line traits reveals that GRF4 regulates expression of (>>_>>^>>) -metabolism genes.

a, Mature plant height. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 16). b, The number of tillers per plant. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 16). c, The number of grains per panicle. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 16). d, Flag-leaf width. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 16). e, Culm (stem) width expressed as diameter of the uppermost internode. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 16). f, Grain yield per plant. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 220). g, Relative root abundance of AMT1.2 mRNA in NILs, genotypes as indicated. Abundances shown are relative to NJ6 plants (set to 1). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). h, Root glutamine synthase (GS) activities. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). i, Relative shoot abundance of Fd-GOGAT mRNA. Abundances shown are relative to NJ6 plants (set to 1). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). j, Shoot glutamine synthase (GS) activities. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). k–n, Flag–GRF4-mediated ChIP–PCR enrichment (relative to input) of GCGG-containing promoter fragments (marked with an asterisk) from AMT1.2, GS2, NADH-GOGAT2 and Fd-GOGAT promoters. Diagrams depict putative AMT1.2, GS2, NADH-GOGAT2 and Fd-GOGAT promoters and fragments (1–6). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3 panels k–n). an, Different letters denote significant differences (P < 0.05) from a Duncan’s multiple range test. o, GRF4 activates AMT1.2, GS2, NADH-GOGAT2 and Fd-GOGAT promoter–luciferase fusion constructs in transient transactivation assays. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). **P < 0.05 compared to control group by two-sided Student’s t-tests.

Extended Data Fig. 3 GRF4 regulates expression of multiple (>>_>>^>>) metabolism genes.

a, Relative abundance of NRT1.1B, NRT2.3a and NPF2.4 mRNAs that encode (<< m>>_<3>^<->) uptake transporters. Abundances shown are relative to NJ6 (set to 1). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). b, Relative abundances of NIA1, NIA3 and NiR1 mRNAs that encode (<< m>>_<3>^<->) -assimilation enzymes. Abundances shown are relative to NJ6 (set to 1). Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). c–h, Flag–GRF4-mediated ChIP–PCR enrichment (relative to input) of GCGG-containing fragments (marked with asterisks) from promoters of NRT1.1B (c), NRT2.3a (d) and NPF2.4 (e) genes that encode (<< m>>_<3>^<->) -uptake transporters and NIA1 (f), NIA3 (g) and NiR1 (h) genes that encode (<< m>>_<3>^<->) -assimilation enzymes. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3). ah, Different letters denote significant differences (P < 0.05) from a Duncan’s multiple range test. i, GRF4 activates NRT1.1B, NRT2.3a, NPF2.4, NIA1, NIA3 and NiR1 promoter–luciferase fusion constructs in transient transactivation assays. Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3) in all panels. P values are from a two-sided Student’s t-test.

Extended Data Fig. 4 GA promotes glutamine synthase and nitrate reductase activities.

a, Glutamine synthase activities in roots of two-week-old rice plants treated with 100 μM GA (GA3) and/or 2 μM PAC, genotypes as indicated. b, Glutamine synthase activities in shoots of plants treated with GA and/or PAC, genotypes and treatments as indicated in a. c, Nitrate reductase activities in shoots of plants treated with GA and/or PAC, genotypes and treatments as indicated in a. ac, Data are mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3) P values are from two-sided Student’s t-tests.

Extended Data Fig. 5 BiFC visualization of SLR1–GIF1–GRF4 interactions.

a, Details of constructs expressing GRF4 and variants deleted for specific domains. GRF4 contains the QLQ and WRC domains, positions as indicated. b, BiFC assays. Constructs expressing GRF4 or deletion variants (shown as in a) tagged with the N terminus of YFP were co-transformed into tobacco leaf epidermal cells, together with constructs expressing GIF1 or SLR1 tagged with the C terminus of YFP, respectively. Scale bars, 60 μm. c, BiFC assays. Constructs expressing GRF1 or related GRFs and GIFs family proteins tagged with the N terminus of YFP were co-transformed into tobacco leaf epidermal cells together with a construct expressing SLR1 tagged with the C terminus of YFP. Scale bar, 60 μm. b, c, Images of BiFC assays are representative of three experiments performed independently with similar results.


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