Recognize Crop Potential Outside the TraditionalTue, 02/28/2017 - 16:07
Productivity, competitiveness and profitability rank high on the list of concerns that Mexico’s food producers grapple with. Leading agricultural company Syngenta says technology and innovation can help but that the country itself needs to move beyond traditional crops. “This is what Mexico should be doing in a more accelerated manner: produce not for the sake of producing but to effectively commercialize,” says company Director General Javier Valdés.
Syngenta has developed a long-term business plan that incorporates the use of technology and innovation to tackle the issues producers are facing. “We are completely focused on research and development of new technologies and our commitment is to prove to farmers that using our technologies and products generates an economic benefit for them, while also being green and sustainable,” says Valdés.
The company’s product portfolio includes seed treatment and crop protection, among several solutions. The goal of these is to help producers obtain the most out of every crop despite the threats that traditional agriculture often face, such as climate change and plagues. “Crop protection is a priority for producers because an unprotected crop can lose up to 40 percent of its productivity. Our technologies help farmers protect their work from the moment they plant a seed until they harvest healthy, high-yield crops,” says Valdés. The increase in severe climate conditions, such as drought or frost, also spurred Syngenta to develop technology that helps crops become more resistant to new climate scenarios.
Part of helping farmers become more productive includes helping them discern which crop has the most productive and commercial potential. For Valdés, it is not a matter of producing a national crop such as corn across the entire country but finding the crop that generates the most production and economic benefit, considering the country’s climate and terrain. Such is the case of sunflower seeds, which Valdés says have become more profitable than many other crops. Syngenta has been working with local producers to enhance their potential by shifting to sunflower production. “This is the type of technological transformation that Syngenta expects to achieve. We provide technical assistance through the entire process,” says Valdés.
This technology transfer is supported through one of Syngenta’s most important projects: The Good Growth Plan, an initiative that rests on six main pillars: making crops more efficient, rescuing farmland, enhancing biodiversity, empowering small farmers, keeping people safe and caring for every worker. According to Valdés, thanks to The Good Growth Plan tomato production per hectare has almost doubled in the country’s center states. “Having farmers see firsthand the benefits of Syngenta’s products and developments helps us strengthen our brand. The best recommendation we can get is the one we get from small producers and farmers,” Valdés says.
Among the variety of products and technologies Syngenta offers is the use of genetically modified (GM) crops. Though the commercialization and consumption of some GM crops, such as cotton or soybeans, is not forbidden in the country, the planting of GM corn has sparked an ongoing dispute because Mexico is considered a center of origin for maize. Despite the legal debate, Valdés says Syngenta’s technologies are aimed at helping maize seed express its entire genetic potential. “Biotechnology is just one more tool that producers can take advantage of. It is intended to simplify their life and help them produce more per hectare.”R&D plays such an important role in the work Syngenta does in Mexico that its center in Culiacan, Sinaloa, develops conventional vegetable seeds that are exported to Central America and the US. “We work in developing the characteristics the market demands, such as color and shape. Every piece of technology and innovation we develop is not only for Mexico but for worldwide consumption,” says Valdés.
Technology and knowledge-sharing works both ways, particularly when the company detects a possible threat to Mexican crops in other parts of the world. “According to the last National Agricultural Sector Census, a main concern of producers is related to technology transfer. We need to support that. We want producers to know that Syngenta is an ally and partner.”