Cargill and CIMMYT reward sustainable innovators in Mexico

$25,000 goes to a forward-thinking producer, an enterprising researcher and a collaborative-minded opinion leader

By Amanda Halbersma April 21, 2016

Three projects that are working to achieve food security in Mexico in a sustainable way will share $25,000 in awards from Cargill and the International Center for Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) research center.

A grain producers’ representative will put his $10,000 portion of the award into a conservation project, which will help him renew machinery and equipment. A researcher’s $10,000 award will go toward technological developments aimed at reducing consumption of fertilizers and herbicides in agriculture soybeans.

And an opinion leader, hoping to improve the incomes of farmers and their families, will use his $5,000 award to purchase a rainwater conservation system to help boost productivity for corn farmers in the state of Hidalgo.

They are the first winners of the Cargill-CIMMYT Food Security and Sustainability Award, which was created in 2015 to demonstrate Cargill’s support for Mexico’s role in feeding the world. Cargill’s President and CEO, Dave MacLennan, announced the award at an August event with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The event commemorated Cargill’s 150th anniversary, its 50th year of operations in Mexico, and a $7.2 billion business plan for Mexico from 2015-2018.

On an ongoing basis, the award will recognize efforts that Mexican producers, researchers and opinion leaders are undertaking to address important issues facing Mexico. One winner for each of the three categories – producers, scientists and opinion leaders – were chosen from 30 submissions by a committee of expert researchers and specialists from Cargill and CIMMYT.

Grain producers’ representative, Ulises Robles Gámez from Rio Fuerte Sur Association won a $10,000 portion of the award for his operation, which is developing a culture of sustainable agriculture. He is using irrigation scheduling, drones that optimize fertilizer application and other conservation techniques.

In addition to renewing machinery and equipment, he will update the professional knowledge of his technical staff.

“Most important is the rational use of natural resources, achieving soil enrichment, reducing levels of pollution of the environment by reducing the use of fuel and insecticides, and optimizing the use of water, which is a scarce resource,” Ulises said.

Researchers Damar L. Lopez and Luis Herrera-Estrella are putting their $10,000 portion of the award into researching crops that are capable of using phosphite as a phosphorus source, which can replace the use of traditional fertilizers that use phosphate and herbicides.

“Phosphate fertilization is enormously inefficient because when the fertilizer is applied, the crop consumes only 20 to 30 percent and the rest is set on the ground and consumed by weeds and / or soil microorganisms,” they wrote in their application. “Phosphite, however, is less reactive than the phosphate soil components and cannot be metabolized by various weeds and microorganisms.”

Erick Gordillo Enamorado, who works with Mexico’s Network of Agro Business, hopes to establish a strategy for organizational, productive and commercial integration that ultimately helps achieve higher performance crops for marginalized farmers. His organization currently reaches 650 corn farmers at 17 municipalities in Hidalgo. The award he has received will go toward purchasing a furrow diking machine and rainwater conservation equipment, which will help increase the availability of water for local farmers.

He said he is enthusiastic about how the CIMMYT-Cargill award showcases what the private and public sectors can achieve, working together.

“I think there are many areas of opportunity for both the private and public sectors (to share) knowledge, experience and financial resources. We can create sustainable alternatives that allow more people to have greater productivity associated with the sustainability of agriculture … in other words, we can make a significant change in agriculture moving forward,” Enamorado said.

The Cargill-CIMMYT Food Security and Sustainability Award will be granted annually to continually recognize initiatives working towards food security and sustainability in Mexico.