Humanity already uses the equivalent of 1.5 planet earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste, which at current rates, could be three planet earths by 2050. Faced with this unsustainable trend and the looming threat of climate change, Mars wants to be a part of the solution.
Mars’ plant scientists have been working with the University of California, Davis, the University of Arkansas and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on the contribution to global warming of methane and nitrous oxide from flooded rice fields. Studies have shown so far that over-fertilizing increases GHG emissions, while an alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation system can greatly reduce methane emissions. The research indicates that carefully selecting or breeding new varieties of rice could have a big impact on the sustainability of rice cultivation.
THE CACAO GENOME PROJECT
Part of our solution also is to protect the most vulnerable against the effects of climate change. Smallholder farmers in Mars’ supply chains stand to be hit hard by changing weather patterns. Mars launched the Cacao Genome Project in 2008 with IBM and the US Department of Agriculture to sequence, assemble and annotate the genome of the cacao tree. We released the genome free online so that breeders could begin identifying traits of climate change adaptability, enhanced yield, and efficiency in water and nutrient use. Ultimately, this will result in healthier, stronger and more productive cacao cultivars, which will improve farmers’ yields and incomes.