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“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting”

Water availability is "a massive concern", says David Hollinrake, vice president of Bayer CropScience, the crop protection giant.

Water availability is “a massive concern on our minds and throughout the world”, according to David Hollinrake, vice-president of Bayer CropScience, the crop protection giant, speaking at Bayer’s 10th annual Ag Issue Forum at the end of February.

He also estimated that agriculture needs to become 70 percent more productive in order to keep up with a growing world population that’s forcasted to be 9.6 billion by 2050.

The two-day conference in Phoenix featured conversations about the challenges of the agriculture industry, innovation in agriculture investment and the technologies at the forefront of the sector.

Population growth, limited arable land, changing consumption patterns, weather fluctuations, consumer trends and more importantly, water availability, are worth attention in 2015, he told delegates.

“As the world becomes more affluent, [consumers] have an increasing desire to eat protein,” Hollinrake said during his closing comments. “In order to create that protein we need to be significantly more productive than what we have been today.”

“Weather fluctuation, whether it’s too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry, the reality is we are products of Mother Nature and we count on good springs and summers in order to grow our crops,” he added.

A panel discussion with Bill Hohenstein, director of Climate Change Program, USDA; David Modeer, general manager of Central Arizona Project; Larry Clemens, interim North America Ag director, The Nature Conservancy, and Jay Hill, owner and farmer of Hill Farms, also addressed the water issue.

Modeer told delegates that the cost of water used by farmers has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, and it’s likely to more than double within the next eight years.

On top of increasing water prices, the weather fluctuations in the future will only exacerbate the condition, the panel added. More droughts, less rainfall and changes in precipitation, particularly in the Southwest US, are presenting big challenges to farmers. “How are we going to store the water and the use of snowpack, which is critical to water storage, for future need is a challenge we need to tackle in near-term,” said Modeer.

After one delegate repeated the old Mark Twain quote, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting,” the panel insisted that collaboration between farmers and governments is essential if solutions to easing drought implications and water abundance are to be found.