According to Monsanto, addressing climate change and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from agriculture can only be achieved through collective effort, which is the primary driver behind today’s (Dec. 1) announcement of the Carbon-Neutral Collaborative — a new consortium of experts on agricultural greenhouse gasses.

The Carbon-Neutral Collaborative will help develop a framework for agricultural GHG accounting and advise Monsanto on its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2021. Monsanto announced its goal of a carbon neutral operational footprint one year ago today; the collaborative met for the first time Tuesday.

“Since last year, we’ve been energized and inspired by the productive discussions and efforts around climate change from the many stakeholders involved, especially our farmer customers who are the ultimate stewards of the land,” says Brett Begemann, Monsanto’s president and chief operating officer. “While the problem of climate change is incredibly complex with many regional differences, the contributions over the past year — by some of the strongest leaders in agricultural and environmental science — are very promising.”

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service recently awarded a $1 million Conservation Innovation Grant to the National Corn Growers Association, to support work in this area. This grant was matched with $1.6 million from Monsanto and in-kind contributions by several other partners in the project.

The USDA-supported project and the Carbon-Neutral Collaborative have been tasked with developing a scalable and verifiable carbon accounting framework that will provide a transparent system for measuring and reporting carbon reductions based on the adoption of specific agricultural practices and systems. In addition to Monsanto, inaugural members of the Carbon-Neutral Collaborative include experts from:

  • AgSolver, Inc.
  • Applied GeoSolutions
  • Climate Smart Group Inc.
  • Coalition on Ag Greenhouse Gases
  • Colorado State University
  • CropGrower, LLC
  • Kansas State University
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • The Soil Health Partnership
  • University of Illinois at Chicago

The formation of the collaborative is just one example from the past year of the cooperative work across the agriculture industry that lays the groundwork for large scale carbon-neutral crop production to fight climate change. Other significant industry initiatives, in which Monsanto has participated, include:

  • The formation of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, which brings together food and agriculture companies to support farmers in improving soil health and water quality;
  • The Climate Smart Agriculture working group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, designed to foster collective action to promote the adoption of climate-smart agricultural systems worldwide; and
  • Advanced work by The Soil Health Partnership to engage 100 growers to test sustainable agriculture practices, along with pilot programs to assess digital methods that validate that farmers are helping achieve greenhouse gas reductions.

Early in 2016 Monsanto commissioned third-party expert ICF International to examine the potential for reducing GHG emissions through agriculture in the U.S. The resulting report showed that widespread adoption of recommended practices could potentially result in more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions reductions in the U.S. alone. These farming practices include: cover crops, conservation tillage and precision nutrient management. Throughout the summer and fall, Monsanto engaged with more than 20 academic leaders in soil health to share the report’s findings.

Meanwhile, the company is actively working with its U.S. seed corn producers to survey adoption of these best management practices, while providing education to encourage further adoption. Likewise, internal Monsanto teams mobilized to start reducing GHG intensity in the company’s crop protection operations, including:

  • Further streamlined the crop protection supply chain to curb emissions in production and transit;
  • Established an internal carbon price, which was recently used to evaluate the climate impact of Monsanto’s capital investment in converting a coal boiler to natural gas in 2017, expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 42,000 metric tons per year; and
  • Added a sustainability index for selecting contract growers for seed corn production.

The call to address climate change stretches beyond agriculture. At the November United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP22, Monsanto joined with other companies in signing a public statement committing to move forward with the Paris Agreement.

For more on how Monsanto and the seed industry are addressing climate change, check out Seed World’s most recent article “Corn Belt Marches North.”