As we source more corn than any other agricultural raw material, we wanted to support growers as they work to improve their environmental stewardship. In 2018, we partnered with Truterra™ (formerly Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN), the sustainable solutions business of America’s largest farmer-owned cooperative, to develop a sustainable agriculture programme that uses cutting-edge technology to enable farmers to more effectively target and measure the impact of efforts to protect the environment.
This first-of-its-kind programme began as a pilot in 2018, with 310,000 acres of corn in the U.S. Midwest enrolled in our sustainability programme with Truterra™. In September 2019, we expanded this coverage to 1.5 million acres, representing the amount of corn we buy globally each year.
As an active member of Field to Market, we are proud to have the largest registered continuous improvement project to date. Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, is a US-based collaboration extending throughout the agricultural value chain focused on providing opportunities for continuous improvement in environmental outcomes.
Programme results and highlights
In 2018, we formed our partnership with Truterra to advance conservation practices on 310,000 acres focused on sustainable corn. The pilot project successfully engaged >240 growers and achieved an impressive 74% grower retention rate year-over-year.
While we are able to apply industry standards to provide the impact of the programme for the full 310,000 acres, we find it more meaningful to assess the acres and fields that have been enrolled both years to truly understand the programme’s impact. This area equates to 148,000 acres.1
- Growers have implemented 21 of 26 conservation practices recommended by Truterra, which drive tangible environmental changes both on farm and in the surrounding communities. There was more than a 20% increase in both field borders and windbreak or shelter-belt establishments, which help to protect soil and water quality in the areas surrounding farms.
- A 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 895 pounds per acre per year to 808 has been achieved, the equivalent of removing 1,254 cars from the road each year.
This reduction has been driven by the adoption of conservation practices such as cover crops, which can absorb CO2 in the atmosphere and use it to enrich soil, and conservation tillage, which reduces the number of times they turn soil over to prepare it for crops, reducing soil erosion and use of fuel-burning farm equipment and increasing carbon absorption into the soil.
- Nitrogen use efficiency measures the efficiency with which soil nitrate-N from fertilizer, crop residue, manure, and soil organic matter, is converted into grain N. This metric decreased by 38% from 0.71 pounds of Nitrogen per bushel to 0.98 due to the unprecedented wet planting and growing season in the US.
- The Soil Conditioning Index (SCI) improved by 4%. SCI is a tool used to gauge organic matter levels in soil, which is an important metric as organic matter is a primary indicator of soil quality, the capacity to sustain plant productivity. Soil organic matter is an important factor in carbon sequestration, the long-term storage of carbon dioxide, and efforts to tackle global climate change.
- Wind erosion remained unchanged at 0.01 tons per acre per year. The movement of soil particles caused by wind degrades soil quality and may move nutrients to water sources.
- A 6% reduction in Sheet and Rill erosion (the movement of soil particles caused by rainfall and irrigation runoff) is the equivalent of 1,085 trucks of topsoil that stayed on the farm. The adoption of conservation tillage and cover crops drove the results from 1.17 to 1.10 tons per acre per year.
1 We are able to report year-over-year on 148,000, or 48% of the acres as the data for the remaining 26% could be not be released at the time of printing the 2020 Annual Report due to pending grower data privacy agreement and precision ag software upgrades.