What can farmers do to avoid emissions, erosion and run-off? At last month’s Tour de Farm we talked to Dirk Baets, Sustainable Development Manager at Bayer Belgium, and Jolanda Wijsmuller, Food Chain Manager at Bayer Netherlands. It turns out, there’s a variety of sustainable agricultural measures available – and Bayer assists farmers to get these projects off the ground.
Could you tell us a little bit about how Bayer supports sustainable agriculture?
Jolanda Wijsmuller: “As the Food Chain Manager in the Netherlands, I’m involved in the project we have with Farm Frites on sustainability. Farm Frites is a Dutch company specialized in frozen and chilled potato products, and together we try to improve the sustainability level of the potato growers. We talk with them about emissions, we talk about buffer zones, biodiversity and how to avoid storage diseases. It is our overall objective to reach high quality, high production standards and high yields – with the lowest impact as possible.”
Dirk Baets: “At Bayer Crop Science in Belgium I’m responsible for sustainable development management and stewardship. We promote good agricultural practices to avoid or at least reduce environmental problems – and if there are any problems, we look for
solutions. At the same time, we raise awareness about resistant management and support farmers to reduce the exposure to plant protection products.”
What exactly are good agricultural practices, Dirk?
Dirk Baets: “One example is using micro dams. This technique avoids erosion in potatoes. Regarding sustainability, we always work around three pillars: the economic aspect, the environmental aspect and the social responsibility. The economic aspect is that farmers can increase their yields by investing in new machinery. For the environmental aspect we are reducing the residues of plant protection products in surface water. The third pillar is that by preventing erosion in potatoes we also avoid mud streams in the streets.”
Dirk Baets is Sustainable Development Manager at Bayer Belgium.
Jolanda, could you tell us about sustainable agriculture in practice in the Netherlands?
Jolanda Wijsmuller: “All in all, the growers are doing a very good job. They have high production levels, they work with monitoring systems and they keep well under the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL). But we have one major problem in the Netherlands and that is emissions to surface water. In fact, the Dutch authorities have set objectives to reduce emissions by 50% until 2018 and by 90% until 2023. That’s why we really focus on that issue. We want to support the farmers with solutions so that they can avoid contaminations in the surface water.”
Are emissions to the surface water also a problem in Belgium?
Dirk Baets: “Unfortunately we also found too much residues of plant protection products in the surface water. That’s why it is very important that farmers reduce surface water contamination by installing a filling and rinsing area on their farm so that we avoid point source pollution. We offer farmers advice how to construct it, how big the area and the buffer tank should be. Moreover, if we look to diffuse contamination sources like erosion and run-off, farmers can install grass buffer strips behind the field. Conservation tillage is also an important measure to avoid erosion and run-off.”
What does Bayer offer farmers to reduce surface water contamination?
Jolanda Wijsmuller: “On the one hand, what we can do is take samples of the surface water and analyze it, see what we find. It would be recommended to do this every two weeks. Another possibility – Dirk already mentioned it – is to install a filling and rinsing area, like Bayer Phytobac. It is a closed system in which you digest all of your company’s wastewater in which pesticides are present. In the Phytobac, there is sand or soil along with straw. You bring in the wastewater and via the bacteria normally present in the soil the active ingredients break down and are degraded. It’s a very nice system.”
Dirk Baets: “At the Tour de Farm we presented a new auto-cleaning technology which allows farmers to efficiently rinse the spraying equipment. Additionally, air induction nozzles ensure that crop protection products do not drift out of the field. But we have to convince farmers that these low drift nozzles are as efficient as the classic nozzles. But I’m sure that won’t be a problem – because, as Jolanda said, the farmers are already doing a good job when it comes to sustainability.”
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