Farmers Share Their View of a Sustainable Future

Sep 26, 2023 7:55 AM ET
Campaign: Digital Farming
"Farmer voice supported by Bayer"

They grow our food. They fuel our growth. Now it's our time to listen.

The Farmer Voice survey is the response of 800 farmers in 8 different countries. In our biggest survey of modern agriculture to date, what farmers said was both surprising and inspiring to us all.

They face soaring temperatures, erratic weather, relentless pests and devastating droughts. And yet, the data is clear that farmers all over the world are optimistic about the future.

About the Farmer Voice Survey

Farmers and Climate Change

Growers are putting solutions in the field. Climate change is increasing pressure on growers to respond to hotter temperatures, intense rains and other extreme weather patterns. Thanks to the variety of solutions available to them, farmers are already doing a lot to adapt — 71% of farmers say that climate change has already had a large impact on their farm. This highlights the need for more innovative approaches and technologies. 


Key Takeaways from the Farmer Voice Survey

Better seeds will help with unpredictable weather 

90% of farmers surveyed said they have experienced an increase in changes in the weather. Half the farmers we spoke to said better seeds, traits and crop protection were the best solutions for coping with changes in weather patterns.

Cover crops are growing across the globe

84% of farmers said they already apply or intend to apply practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As far as practices, cover crops were the most popular answer with 43% saying they either plan to implement the practice, or are already using it on their farm. A quarter of the farmers we spoke to are using digital farming techniques to reduce fertilizer use, and the same number practice low or no-till farming.

Pollinators are a key priority for many farmers

Pest and disease pressures have risen over the past three years, according to 73% of the farmers we surveyed. More than half (54%) are already working to improve biodiversity by using measures like insect hotels.

Farmers see a bright future for growing food 

In spite of the challenging conditions farmers are experiencing across the globe, 71% of farmers surveyed feel positive about the future of farming. Over half, 54% have been in farming for three or more generations.

Farmers need solutions to cope with extreme weather patterns

One third of farmers put extreme weather in their top three challenges. Additionally, of the growers we surveyed, farmers in India reported the highest percentage of farmers wanting seed and traits designed to cope with changing weather patterns.

Digital farming is a promising tool for growers

1 in 3 farmers believe access to better digital technologies would be among the top three factors beneficial to operations. Furthermore, a quarter of these farmers, approximately 25%, have either already adopted, or are planning to use digital tools to reduce fertilizer and crop protection use.

Indian Smallholders Optimistic and Mitigating Risk

In addition to the 800 farmers surveyed from the seven other countries, we also connected with 2,056 smallholder farmers in India. These farmers were associated with the Better Life Farming ecosystem, farmers of Bayer-supported Farmer Producer Organizations, and farmers enrolled in Bayer’s Sustainable Rice Program. These interviews were conducted between May and June 2023.

To cope with a volatile environment, the Indian smallholders we spoke to are prioritizing financial security through insurance (26%), infrastructure (21%) and modern inputs (20%) as pests and changing weather threaten yields.

When asked about the future, 60% said they would benefit most from access to digital technologies and modern crop protection. 43% of the smallholders mentioned digital marketing tools to manage farm outputs as well as planning and mapping tools.

Despite facing numerous challenges, smallholder farmers remain overwhelmingly optimistic about their future, with 82% expressing positivity.

The Voice of Farmers

A Closer Look at Farmers Around the Globe

Australia is most concerned by economic pressures

78% say energy costs are among their top three concerns for the next three years – higher than any other country surveyed. Australia has enacted new environmental laws to propel the country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Interim greenhouse gas emission reduction targets have also been set for 2030. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Australian farmers said they have plans to shift toward renewable energy or biofuels.

Brazil is most open to new technologies to adapt to climate change

Brazilian farmers stand out with their strong focus on soil health. In terms of digital adoption, there's a notable diversity across countries – a significant 70% of Brazilian farmers opt for online input purchases. Pest pressures are a shared concern among 7 in 10 farmers surveyed in Brazil, reflecting the challenges they anticipate in managing these issues. Interestingly, Brazilian farmers perceive diversifying crops as a prime avenue for growth, suggesting their keen understanding of the benefits and opportunities this strategy holds. Additionally Brazilian farmers are most likely to agree that they’re open to implement new tech, including new genome techniques, to adapt to climate change (88%).

China prioritizing renewables and biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Only behind Australia, 61% of farmers in China answered that they are using or planning to use renewable energy or biofuels. 81% say they are open to implementing new technologies, including new genome techniques, to adapt to climate change. 65% of farmers surveyed in China say that access to the latest crop protection is most needed to tackle the risks of extreme weather – more than any other country surveyed.

Germany is concerned about access to better crop protection

Both Germany and the USA share a common priority in seeking improved crop protection technology. In particular, German farmers also showcase a distinctive inclination toward promoting biodiversity through practices like crop rotation. This emphasis on sustainable farming techniques aligns with German farmers' preference for crop rotation, underscoring their commitment to fostering a more diverse and ecologically balanced agricultural landscape.

India is most likely to prioritize soil health for future success

In India, a significant 72% of farmers are considering diversifying their crops and 64% think they need to improve the health of their soils. The majority of small-scale farmers in India maintain an optimistic outlook on the future of agriculture, with an impressive 82% expressing positivity.

Kenya is most concerned about the effects of climate change

73% of farmers in Kenya have experienced increased droughts in recent years, highlighting the impact of changing weather patterns. More than half of farmers surveyed in Kenya (53%) are using cover crops to reduce greenhouse gasses, or plan to in the future. This combination of innovative efforts to reduce emissions and the harsh reality of more frequent droughts underscores the importance of addressing extreme weather in Kenya.

Ukraine is facing similar challenges as global peers, on top of the war

In Ukraine, 70% of farmers named fertilizer costs as one of the top three challenges, showing that the concrete materialized consequences of the war pose big pressures on farmers in the country. In addition, 40% named general disruption due to the war as a top challenge. Apart from that Ukrainian farmers share many of the same characteristics of their global peers, for example more than three-quarters (77%) state that climate change has already largely impacted their farm.

USA expects to diversify crops to succeed in the future

Nearly half of US farmers, at 48%, view diversifying crops as their top opportunity for future revenue growth on their farms. Energy and fertilizer costs topped the list of near term challenges for farmers here. And farmers in America are focused on efficiency, with over half (51%) saying they need to be more efficient on existing land to be successful in the future.

Listening to those that nourish the world

At Bayer, we set out to listen and learn as much as we can about the challenges, desires and unique voices of farmers around the globe. When we better understand the diverse range of farmer perspectives, we can develop more effective and relevant solutions in seed, crop protection and technology.


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