Danone North America launched a comprehensive program to improve soil health in 2017. This program would increase carbon sequestration, improve yields, reduce chemical usage, restore biodiversity, and increase soil water holding capacity. It was designed to provide dairy farms with long-term economic resilience. A company assessment has revealed that participating dairy farms have performed well in the fourth year of its five-year initiative.
“At Danone North America, we understand the opportunity within our soil and the importance of regenerative practices and what they can unlock, environmentally and now financially, along with our responsibility to advance a sustainable and resilient future,” says Jennifer Simpson, Director of Agriculture, Danone North America. “While soil health is just one piece of the puzzle, we work hand-in-hand with our farmer partners to apply a tailored approach to each individual farm to help them adopt economically viable regenerative farming practices that are best for them.”
Regenerative agriculture is defined as a combination of farming practices that protect soils, water, biodiversity and animal welfare. However, the company acknowledges the importance of farmers. These practices also are integral to Danone’s global commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Highlights from the fourth year of program performance include:
- Acreage growthThe program now covers more than 140,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada. This is a 72% increase over year three. The program currently includes dairy farms that supply milk to Danone North America brands like Oikos, Two Good and Horizon Organic.
- Reduced greenhouse gas emission and carbon sequesteredTo date, the soil program has helped to reduce nearly 119,000 metric tons equivalent carbon dioxide equivalent. It also sequestered more that 31,000 tons of CO2 through regenerative soil-health practices. To optimize GHG reduction strategies, the company continues to monitor and measure the impact of these practices.
- Protected, restored earth. The program has prevented the erosion of more than 337,000 tons soil, which has resulted in nearly $3.3million in cost savings for partner farmers since its inception. Participating farmers also planted cover crop on 51% of their acreage, compared with the national average 4%. They also reduced or utilized no-till management practices on 63% of the program’s acreage versus the national average of 33%.
- Fostered biodiversity One-farm efforts for biodiversity conservation include the preservation of nearly 1,700 acres worth of buffer lands and forest. Danone North America has partnered with farmers to plant more than 20 species from barley and wheat to alfalfa to red clover.
- Conserved, protected water systems The program increased the use of soil moisture probes to 55% in year 4, helping to ensure and eventually increase soil water-holding capacities through informed and better water usage practices.
“On our farms, we see firsthand the vital role soil plays in feeding our world and the positive impact regenerative farming can have in recharging our natural resources for future generations. By working with Danone North America, we have a tremendous amount of opportunity to make an impact on our farms and the broader food system,” says Ken McCarty, Co-Owner of MVP Dairy and McCarty Family Farms.
Unveil the R3 ROI Tool
Danone North America developed R3 in collaboration with Sustainable Environmental Consultants. This is an extension of their regenerative agriculture program. The web-based benchmarking and comparison tool uses farm-specific, verified data to propose targeted practices as part of SEC’s Sustainable Continuous Improvement Plan (SCIP), which is utilized to advance regenerative agriculture practices on farms. Once a practice has been selected, the tool will provide models with projected returns on investment to assist farmers in making informed decisions and prioritizing.
These SCIP practices have been adopted by R3 farmers:
- No-till farming helps to reduce soil disturbances and increase soil biodiversity.
- Cover crops are planted to improve soil health, slow erosion and attract pollinators.
- Established buffer zones to prevent contamination between organic certified production and non-organic lands.
The company plans to expand its program across North America, as it continues to learn from regenerative practices. This will accelerate its impact on mitigating the effects of climate change. To learn more about Danone North America’s regenerative agriculture practices, click here.
Source: Successful Farming