Creating a future of food that restores the balance between production and nature poses a critical challenge for the agricultural sector. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Syngenta Group are working together on initiatives that promote soil health, resource use efficiency and habitat protection in key agricultural regions in the world. The goal is to move towards a food system that restores balance between production and nature, rather than simply minimizing harm.
The collaboration involves implementing place-based projects to scale regenerative agriculture practices in major agricultural regions worldwide, innovating for nature through new research and providing joint thought leadership through public engagement. The collaboration leverages Syngenta Group’s agricultural know-how and research and development capabilitiesand TNC's scientific and conservation expertise. The collaboration partners with international organizations, farmers and communities to advance regenerative agriculture and maximize benefits for food production while mitigating climate change and reducing agricultural impact on biodiversity.
Projects with Syngenta Group
Syngenta Group and TNC explore and test innovations through projects including:
Transforming food systems to prioritize environmental replenishment, efficient landscape usage and natural system restoration can help improve the livelihoods and resilience of farmers while also preserving biodiversity. The Reverte project was developed to facilitate the restoration of degraded pastureland to accommodate the projected expansion of farming while avoiding conversion and promoting restoration of native vegetation. The aim of the project is to make the restoration of degraded land a profitable and mainstream option throughout the Cerrado region as the alternative to legal clearance of native habitat. The ultimate objective is to restore one million hectares of degraded pasturelands in the Cerrado, with the ambition to preserve 100,000 hectares and restore 40,000 hectares of native vegetation by 2030. By the end of 2022, regenerative farming practices were being implemented on 80,000 hectares.
The Run Tian project seeks to advance soil health in the Huang-Huai-Hai region of the North China plains by demonstrating the agronomic and economic viability of reduced or no-till field management. TNC and Syngenta Group have collaborated with government entities and academia to train nearly 15,000 farmers in the largest wheat producing area in China on regenerative agricultural practices between 2020 and 2022, aimed at reducing machinery fuel usage and enhancing soil health.
The Dairy Feed in Focus initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve soil health and enhance water quality by implementing best management practices in feed and forage production, as well as feed efficiency, in dairy cattle. The program focuses on piloting, replicating and scaling up the adoption of these practices while also providing farmers with incentives to support the adoption of regenerative practices. The program has developed a blueprint for replicating similar initiatives for the agriculture community to use to speed up development of conservation in dairy production. TNC, Syngenta Group and the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative have collaborated on this project, receiving support from multiple partners across the dairy value chain, including farmers, dairy co-ops, processors and international consumer goods companies.
The current collaboration between Syngenta Group and TNC builds on a foundation of work spanning more than a decade to create positive impact on farming practices. Examples of this work include:
- In 2021-2022, we co-developed a manual of Good Agricultural Practices for farmers in the Argentinian Gran Chaco.
- In 2018, we launched sustainable agriculture demonstration projects in arid and semi-arid regions of China to promote soil health and improve potato production.
- In 2015, we developed a new system of training, implementation and measurement of best management practices in the Saginaw Bay watershed of Michigan in the United States to improve water quality and preserve natural habitat. In 2017, Syngenta Group, the Kellogg Company and TNC received the Field to Market Collaboration of the Year award for outstanding partnership in advancing the sustainability of U.S. agriculture for this work.
- In 2009, we launched the Greener Soybean (Soja+Verde) initiative to promote sustainable soybean production in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state. Working with other companies and the local government, we promoted the expansion of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR) in 12 municipalities, where 7 million hectares were mapped and registered under the CAR to encourage conservation.
Projects with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture
The collaboration also includes projects with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA):
- A project between TNC and SFSA in Sichuan province aims to promote more sustainable production and to identify incentive mechanisms for producing low-carbon and green products. The project’s intended outcomes include integration of the findings into the provincial government's GHG Emission Inventory and contributions to the development of a Carbon Emissions Peaking Action Plan. A further aim is for the Sichuan government to recognize the technical specifications being developed for carbon-neutral and "smart" products and promote these among agricultural enterprises, cooperatives and smallholders across the province.
- The degradation and pollution of soils in China pose a significant challenge not only for the environment, but also for the productivity and sustainability of agriculture. According to a 2014 government survey, almost 20% of China's farmland is contaminated—an area equivalent to all the arable land in Mexico. The contaminants include various chemicals, mining residues and heavy metals. The government has implemented various policies and programs to address this issue. However, the effects of these measures on sustainable agriculture and soil health remain uncertain. To assess the impact of government subsidies on soil health and “green agricultural development,” the TNC and Chinese academic partners ran three studies. These examined how agricultural subsidies and other incentives have been implemented over the past decade and the extent to which they have influenced farmers' behavior.
- Starting in 2018, TNC for about three years implemented a rainwater harvesting and personalized agronomic guidance project, which included training on Integrated Pest Management. The objective was to assist farmers in transitioning to high-value dry-season horticulture crops. The project directly and indirectly benefitted more than 3,000 farmers. It also improved water quality by reducing sedimentary run-off into the river.
- In July 2019, the two organizations launched a collaborative effort to evaluate and promote sustainable agricultural practices in Laikipia County. The aim is to drive economic development while also conserving wildlife and water resources. The county is a crucial wildlife habitat, but significant population growth has led to increased resource use and an expansion of farming. TNC and SFSA are evaluating the various types of farm operations, their profiles, land uses, impact on soil health and drivers of transition, as well as water use efficiency, pest management, productivity and profitability. The research also explores the interventions required to scale up more sustainable production in Laikipia and how improved seed, soil nutrients and crop protection make farming systems more sustainable.
In 2020, SFSA and TNC introduced an agri-entrepreneurship model in the state of Punjab. The model has several aims: to increase smallholders’ income, reduce stubble burning and improve soil health through conservation agriculture techniques. Selected smallholders increase their income by becoming agri-entrepreneurs (AEs) as they serve other local farmers, helping them to improve their practices, productivity and profitability and benefiting the rural communities, as well as the environment.