Drones can be used to increase safety and productivity in agriculture. The main advantages compared with conventional backpack spraying are optimized use of crop protection products, reduced risk of product contact and high efficiency in application and collection of field information.
Around the world, farmers are facing enormous challenges: Under changing climatic conditions, they are expected to produce healthy and affordable food for a growing world population – and at the same time, reduce carbon emissions, minimize land consumption and preserve biodiversity. Our products and technologies help them master this complex task.
As global demand for agricultural products and solutions grows, so does the pressure on farmers. They need to produce more and are expected to simultaneously reduce their environmental footprint. With our integrated offer, we help farmers find the right balance between economic, environmental and societal demands. High-performance seeds from BASF offer benefits such as a higher yield, better quality and greater resilience against environmental influences like drought. Our innovative crop protection products reduce crop losses caused by insect pests, weeds and fungal diseases. Our digital solutions enable, among other things, better soil management and more targeted use of fertilizers and crop protection products by taking important parameters such as plant health, weed density or weather data directly into account during application.
In 2022, we invested €944 million in research and development in the Agricultural Solutions segment, which represents 9% of segment sales. Our well-filled innovation pipeline has a peak sales potential of more than €7.5 billion for products launched by 2032. The main focus here is sustainability, with four key areas: climate-smart farming, sustainable solutions, digital farming and smart stewardship.
We are continuously improving our farming solutions. Alongside aspects such as efficacy and productivity, this also includes safe application by our customers and impact on the environment.
Crop protection products and seeds are highly regulated at national and international level, which brings with it strict requirements for registering and re-registering active ingredients and crop systems. Regulatory approval is only granted when extensive documentation can be provided showing that our products are safe for people, animals and the environment when used in the manner intended.
As a member of the CropLife International industry association, we are committed to complying with the standards on the research, registration and distribution of crop protection products set out in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In our use of biotechnology, we are guided by the code of conduct set out by EuropaBio, the European biotechnology association, and adhere to the relevant standards and legal regulations governing production and marketing.
Potential risks of our products are assessed and minimized throughout the research, development and registration process, and on an ongoing basis following market registration. We regularly conduct scientific studies and tests, including on modes of action, (eco)toxicological properties and possible residues. This ensures that, as far as possible, our registration dossiers address all questions on potential environmental and health effects.
We adapt our portfolio to the specific requirements of regional markets as customer requirements, crops, soils, climate conditions, plant diseases and farming practices vary around the world. Consequently, product approvals differ from country to country. Distribution generally requires registration and approval of our products in accordance with the respective national regulations.
BASF adheres to the International Code of Conduct issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the distribution of crop protection products. These are only marketed once they have been approved by the relevant authorities. We no longer sell WHO Class 1A or 1B products (high acute oral and dermal toxicity), even if formal approvals exist. Depending on availability, we offer our customers alternatives.
All of BASF’s crop protection products can be used safely under local farming conditions if the information and directions on the label are followed. If they have any questions, complaints or issues, our customers can contact us through various channels, for example, by calling the telephone number printed on all product labels, using the contact forms on our websites or by approaching our sales employees directly. We record all product incidents relating to health or the environment that come to our attention in a global database. If necessary, we take appropriate measures on the basis of this information to minimize preventable incidents. These include updating the instructions for use on product labels. We communicate these changes and general recommendations on the safe use of our products through channels such as our Farmer Field School initiatives in Asia and in training programs such as the On Target Application Academy in the United States.
One of the ways we meet our commitment to product stewardship is by offering a wide range of courses and training on the safe storage, handling, use and disposal of our products. This ranges from on-site events to handouts and digital offerings and is aimed at farmers, retailers, consultants and other users. In India, for example, BASF launched the Suraksha Hamesha program. Suraksha Hamesha means “safety all the time.” The program creates a platform for educating farmers and other users of crop protection products about the nine steps of responsible use of crop protection products and personal protection. Through Suraksha Hamesha, BASF has trained over 189,000 agricultural workers and around 39,000 users across India since 2016. BASF also involves government agencies and the central government’s farm extension teams in these meetings to support and promote farm safety. In addition, digital initiatives reached around 17 million farmers in India and informed them about safety in agriculture.
BASF also promotes new application technologies: In China, for example, more than 1,000 drone pilots were trained in the safe use of crop protection products as part of the Fly with BASF program in 2022.
We also work closely together with associations such as CropLife International and CropLife Europe to promote the safe and proper use of crop protection products. For example, we support stewardship initiatives of both associations and various programs on the proper disposal and recycling of product containers. Technological innovations developed together with industry partners also help to make using crop protection products easier and safer. Examples include the closed transfer systems easyconnect in Europe and the Wisdom system in South America.
Our biotechnology activities and our research and development capabilities comprise advanced breeding techniques, analytics, technology platforms and trait validation. To offer tailor-made, more sustainable crop solutions, our gene identification work focuses on those plant characteristics that enable higher yield and better quality, disease resistance and tolerance of environmental factors such as drought. We apply state-of-the-art scientific methods here such as genetic engineering and selective genome editing.
BASF is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship (ETS), a global industry initiative for seeds. This initiative promotes the adoption of quality management systems for seeds and product stewardship programs covering the entire life cycle. It also has independent auditors verify compliance with its guidelines. In 2022, BASF successfully passed ETS audits on laboratory operations, contained biotech facilities, general stewardship, incident response management and product handling at the Research Triangle Park and Pikevill sites in the United States, Trindade and Primavera do Leste in Brazil, and Bogotá in Colombia.