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TMCNet:  Focus on farm inputs, not outputs, says report...

[December 23, 2013]

Focus on farm inputs, not outputs, says report...

(Farmers Weekly (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Focus on farm inputs, not outputs, says report Farmers must shift their focus away from maximising yields towards optimising inputs if global demand for food is to be met sustainably, suggests a study.

A holistic long-term approach may be the key to introducing sustainability into the food and agriculture equation, according to the Rabobank report.

Fundamentally, this would entail a shift in farmers’ focus away from yield maximisation and towards input optimisation, says the document.

But there is no “one-size-fits-all solution” and bespoke technological innovations will be pivotal to improving best practices in different farming situations, it adds.

“Without a holistic approach towards feeding the world, the global agriculture industry’s capacity to keep up with demand will be stretched at the expense of the environment,” said Rabobank analyst Dirk Jan Kennes.

Balancing resources while optimising supply chain efficiency and reducing waste would ease the pressure to improve agricultural yields, said Mr Kennes.

It would help align the interests of different stakeholders and the way farm input companies view their business models.

Rabobank has identified the over-application of fertilisers and inefficient water use as critical to a step change shift in farmers’ perception of best practice.

Agriculture accounts for 70% of global water demand and technologies to optimise irrigation systems will be key to future water conservation.

The report says an integrated approach would optimise farm inputs and enable farmers to apply at the right time, place and rate – reducing both the effect on the environment and initial cost.

Technological innovations in both areas are being developed as higher farm input prices incentivise farm input companies to spend more on research and development.

Every year, an estimated 1bn tonnes of produce is wasted along global food and agricultural supply chains, says the Rabobank report.

As well as reducing waste, the study says it is crucial that all links in the supply chain – including different types of farm businesses – work together to solve the food supply problem.

Rabobank has identified four different farming groups which it describes as agro-enterprises, family farms, smallholders and agricultural adventurers.

Each group requires a different approach to improving best practices, it says.

Techniques such as soil conditioning should be considered by those farms that operate with less crop rotation, it suggests.

Other methods to improve sustainability include high-tech innovations such as accurate soil-water sensors and GPS technology for variable planting density.

Further contributions could be made by research, education and farming recommendations through less intensive ICT services.

At the same time, land transformation and infrastructure could be improved through collaborations of funders, agronomic consultants and contract farmers.

“The ability to gather a broad set of data on climatic conditions, soil conditions and crop conditions transfers farming into more of a science,” said Mr Kennes.

“Turning this data into farming practices requires intense co-operation between all partners in the agricultural production chain for which product form, application technology and farm operations need to be fully aligned.” (c) 2013 Reed Business Information - UK. All Rights Reserved.

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