Today is World Water Day, a day set aside annually on March 22 as a means to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to encourage people everywhere to sustainably use water resources. It’s also a day to think about the role agricultural biotechnology can play in helping people who most rely on water for their livelihood - our farmers.
Water in the form of irrigation and rainfall is essential for all food production. And agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater usage, according to the United Nations, and as much as 90% in some fast-growing economies.
Fresh in our memory is last summer’s record drought, the worst experienced in the United States since 1988. About 87 percent of the nation’s corn crop and 85 percent of soybeans experienced drought conditions last July and August, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The result was lower corn, soybean and other crop yields across the Midwest and South, generating less income for farmers and farm communities.
Amidst last year’s drought, there was hope offered by new biotechnology technologies that can help farmers cope with drought. Farmers who planted new varieties of drought-tolerant corn last year found these crops to be more resilient to drought conditions than other varieties. There are other promising biotech seed varieties in the research and development pipeline that will help farmers get “more crop per drop” of precious water.
For farmers, the reality is that every day is World Water Day, because crops will always need water. But any technology that enables plants to use it more efficiently can give our farmers an edge - even a small one - to grow the food we need to feed America and export to others around the world.