Also on the call was Leon Corzine, a fifth-generation family farmer from Assumption, Ill. “I learned from my dad and granddad a personal initiative to leave the farm better than I found it. That really is what sustainability is all about. … And we’re able to that better than ever before because the technology we have today is awesome. … We’re able to increase productivity while lowering our environmental footprint. At the same time, we produce a better quality product.”

Regarding nutrient efficiency, Monsanto is on board with the Soil Health Partnership hosted by the National Corn Growers Association and co-sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation. The company is also backing cover crop trials through the Agronomy Science Foundation and the USDA’s Resilient Economic Agriculture Practices (REAP) initiative “reinforces the company’s desire to help farmers understand the potential benefits of management practices that improve soil health,” according to a press release.

Grant said Walmart believes the announced efforts will yield a “commitment made on about 8 million acres. They’re looking at an incremental offset of about 6 million tons of greenhouse gases. That’s pretty significant. … My hope is this is just the beginning, not the end.”

Climate Corporation, a recent acquisition of Monsanto, is also expected to play a role in the sustainability effort. The insurance company tracks extensive weather, soil and yield data. Based on that data, farming customers are often mailed insurance pay-outs during the season.

“I anticipate that in the future this will become very important for the Climate Corporation,” said Grant. “They are working on some early products that look at more efficient use of nutrients. … Good growers will be farming less at ‘field level’ and more square yard by square yard. They’ll put fertilizer in the areas that are really hungry and will show response and using a lot less in areas that have less productive soils. That will increasingly be the name of the game.”

Corzine said his farm has increasingly used split applications of nitrogen. “We put it on four times a year: two applications in the fall and early spring, one at planting and an application after we see how the crop is doing…

“Drone technology and infrared cameras will help us with that farther down the road. But that isn’t here yet. Climate Corp (programs) will help tell us what the plants need and when based on the weather and climate.”