Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Bayer’s Transformation of Rice Cultivation: Direct-Seeded System & Sustainability Goals


On the occasion of the United Nations World Food Day, Bayer unveiled its direct-seeded rice (DSR) system at the 6th International Rice Congress held in Manila. The transition from traditional transplanted puddled rice farming to the DSR method can lead to a reduction in water usage by up to 40 percent, a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45 percent, and a cut in reliance on expensive and limited manual labor by up to 50 percent. This new system aligns perfectly with Bayer’s recent commitment to regenerative agriculture, which aims to increase productivity while enhancing restoration.

The DSR method, with its numerous benefits, has the potential to revolutionize rice farming, with an anticipated 75 percent of India’s total rice fields predicted to adopt this method by 2040, a significant increase from the current 11 percent. By 2030, Bayer aims to implement the DSR system across one million hectares in India, aiding over two million early-adopter small-scale rice farmers through its DirectAcres initiative.

The DirectAcres program is already showing promising results, with 99 percent of Indian farmers achieving successful crop establishment and 75 percent reporting a higher return on investment compared to the traditional transplanted method. As a result, Bayer intends to expand the DirectAcres program to other rice-growing nations in the Asia Pacific region, beginning with the Philippines in 2024.

“We are building entire systems based on regenerative agriculture practices that create value for farmers and nature alike and that help address the issue of global food security,” said Frank Terhorst, Head of Strategy & Sustainability at Bayer’s Crop Science division.

“Direct-seeded rice is an excellent example of a system that holds huge potential to create a positive impact going forward.”

Bayer is introducing a system that integrates seeds, crop protection, and digital solutions. Traditionally, rice farmers cultivate seedlings in nurseries before transplanting them into ploughed, levelled, and flooded paddy fields. The water level is maintained constant for the plants to establish and grow. Just before harvest, the field is drained. This method is used for about 80 percent of the world’s rice crop.

Bayer is now leveraging advanced R&D capabilities to develop climate-resilient rice hybrids with higher yields that can be directly sown into the soil, tailored for different farming environments. By eliminating standing water, machinery can handle many of the labor-intensive farming practices. The reduced reliance on excess water, partly used to control weeds, means that access to crop protection solutions will be crucial for this transformation. To this end, Bayer is developing new crop protection solutions, including a new rice herbicide, to ensure a successful and sustainable weed management program for the direct-seeded rice system.

Bayer’s digital platform, FarmRise, supports smallholder farmers by providing access to advisory services, necessary machinery, other inputs and services, and aims to provide data-driven insights to help farmers make better agronomic decisions. FarmRise also connects smallholders to the company’s Carbon Program, enabling them to earn additional revenues as they reduce emissions.

Rice, the world’s third-largest crop, sustains more than half of the global population. With the global population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, rice production will need to increase by 25 percent to meet demand and maintain stable prices. However, rice production contributes to 1.5 percent of total global GHG emissions, 12 percent of methane emissions, and consumes up to 43 percent of the world’s total irrigation water. Using traditional transplanted puddled rice cultivation methods, 4,000 to 5,000 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of grain.

DSR has the potential to change this by reducing water use and GHG emissions created by methane-emitting bacteria that thrive in standing water. The reduction of manual labor on the farm through mechanization addresses the issue of continuous labor shortage in the Indian countryside due to rapid urbanization. A recent Farmer Voice study supported by Bayer confirmed this, with 22 percent of Indian smallholder farmers citing labor costs as one of the biggest challenges to their operations.

“The need to come together to shape more economically viable and sustainable rice cultivation systems has never been so pressing,” explained Mike Graham, Head of Breeding at Bayer’s Crop Science Division. “Our direct-seeded rice system will help smallholder rice farmers adapt to, and mitigate, climate change while running profitable businesses, improving their own and community’s social well-being.”
The transformation of rice production is a vast and complex ambition that necessitates a collaborative effort from the entire industry, food chain, and beyond to promote adoption and scale-up. Bayer is collaborating with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and has been a part of the Direct Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC) for several years. At COP27 last year, Bayer, in partnership with IRRI and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced an initiative to enhance the lives of smallholder rice farmers by introducing, testing on-farm, and scaling up improved, climate-smart rice varieties and agronomic practices.

Frank Terhorst emphasized the importance of partnerships across the agricultural value chain in scaling up regenerative agricultural solutions. He stated that creating an ecosystem of experts from both the private and public sectors is essential for promoting adoption and making the best innovations, tools, and services widely accessible.

At the 2023 UN Water Conference, Bayer pledged to improve water use by 25 percent per kilogram of rice produced by its smallholder farmer customers enrolled in the DirectAcres program by 2030. The goal of bringing direct-seeded rice to one million hectares by 2030 also aligns with the company’s sustainability objectives of reducing customers’ on-field GHGs per kilogram of crop produced by 30 percent and empowering 100 million smallholder farmers to sustainably increase their productivity, improve the quality of their produce, and enhance their livelihoods.