Chinese farmers currently feed 20% of the global population using only 9% of the world’s arable land. Their traditional corn farming technique — involving planting two to three kernels of corn per mound of soil just to get one plant to grow — highlighted a need for a more efficient planting technology. While this technique may have improved the odds, it had a habit of creating high seed and labor costs. Which is why in 2002, DuPont Pioneer entered the China seed market with the goal of increasing yield by creating a high-quality seed that did not need to be planted at high rates. It wasn’t long, however, before Pioneer realized seed quality was only part of the equation. Farmers there needed to address overall planting and growing concerns to be truly successful.
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Planting better seeds, in a smarter way.
Pioneer partnered with Hebei Nonghaha Agricultural Machinery Group, a local equipment manufacturer, to jointly develop a vacuum planter — the first of its kind in the country — that would allow Chinese farmers to plant corn using only one seed per mound. Improved single kernel planting technology raises the productivity and efficiency of Pioneer’s corn, lowers the seed volume farmers need to purchase, reduces manual labor, and ensures more land can be used for other products, like grain, diversifying and increasing the area’s food production output.
So far, it’s working — single kernel planting is becoming a trend in China, and if the vacuum planter continues to be widely adopted, it’s estimated that 1/3 of corn plants wasted by the manual thinning process could be saved. Additionally, China could decrease its amount of seed production land, essentially growing more grain on less land, thanks to better seeding and farming. Farmer feedback is positive, as the program benefits farmers with lower costs, less labor, increased yields, and additional revenue. This collaborative project between Pioneer, Nonghaha, and the farmers of China won the 2008 DuPont Sustainable Growth Award, in recognition of their work revolutionizing the industry and allowing more of the country to be fed in a sustainable way.