Susanne Wasson is the President of the Crop Protection Business Platform for Corteva Agriscience. Previously, she was the Vice President of Commercial Effectiveness. Prior to being named VP, Susanne was the U.S. Commercial Leader of the Crop Protection Business of Dow AgroSciences. She was previously a Global Business Leader for the Range & Pasture and Industrial Vegetation Management herbicide business and a Global Business Leader for the Seeds and Traits business focused on licensing of Dow AgroSciences’ Bt library, and M&A activities for seeds in Asia. She has held several other roles in marketing, sales and finance in her 30-year career.
Susanne is a member and past chapter president of P.E.O. (philanthropic education organization for women), and a member of the Delta Delta Delta Foundation Crescent Fund committee. She is currently on the Board of Directors of United Way of Central Indiana, Agrinovus Indiana, National FFA Organization, and the American Chemistry Council. She is the Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Crop Life America and was the 2018 chairman of the FFA Foundation Sponsors Board. She was awarded an Honorary American FFA Degree and was a 2016 recipient of the Indianapolis Business Journal Women of Influence award, received the 2019 Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence and was a 2019 Distinguished Alumni of College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources of Oklahoma State University.
Susanne earned degrees in Agricultural Economics and Accounting from Oklahoma State University, and a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University.
Welcome to Farm Food Facts. I'm your host, Phil Lempert today. We talk about the trends in climate smart crop protection and technologies. My guest is Susanne Wasson, President crop protection business platform for Corteva agriscience. Suzanne is a member and past chapter president of PEO, which is a philanthropic e ducational organization for women, a member of the Delta Delta Delta foundation C rescent fund committee, currently on the board of directors of United way of central Indiana national FFA organization and the American chemistry council. She's also the immediate past chair of the board of crop life America, and w as the 2018 chairman of the FFA foundation s ponsors b oard. She was awarded an honorary American FFA degree and was the 2016 recipient of the Indianapolis business journal women of influence award and received the 2019 women in agribusiness Demeter award of excellence. She's also a 2019 distinguished alumni of college of agriculture science, and natural resources of Oklahoma state university, Suzanne. W ow. What do you do in your free time? Welcome to FarmFood Facts.Suzanne:
Thank you, Phil. It's so good to be here.Phil:
So I'm sure with all the droughts, the fires, the climate change is taking place. You and everyone at Corteva agriscience are quite busy these days. What are some of the latest innovation when it comes to crop protection? Right now that is going back and going to push us back to climate smart agriculture?Suzanne:
Well, I think if you look at where we are, we look at our innovation through a lens of sustainability. So how do we take these products that are in the very early stages, making sure that they have a sustainable footprint as we bring them through that long development cycle of 10 to 12 years into the farmer. Um, an example of that would be useful. Um, some of our older products would be say pints per acre, or, you know , uh , a long time ago, even gallons per acre. And now we have just a handful of ounces per acre. So reducing that footprint of the product, but also making sure that it does what it says it will do on the label. That's very important to farmers as well. SoPhil:
You mentioned 10 to 12 years for development. Um, I'm going to ask you a tough question. Do we have 10 to 12 years , uh , to wait as we look at all the things that are going on globally, as it relates to , um, climate change fires, drought, I all this, do we have 10 to 12 years?Suzanne:
Well, the good thing is, is, is our pipelines full. And so we have products at all stages of that development. So we're launching new innovation actually , um, in the U S in , uh , 2022 with a new active ingredient. That's in a matricide Recla mill , for example. So all through that 10 to 12 years, we have product staged at almost every stage gates . So , uh , the pipeline's full and ready for launch over the next few years, which is exciting. And, and we're also, you know, when we're back in that discovery phase, we're looking very far ahead to say, by the time we get to that team year, what will farmers need then?Phil:
And, you know, I just read a report , um, about what's happening with the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest is really affecting , um , a lot of the vineyards. And they're very worried about what all this smoke , um , is going to do to, to their grapes. Is it going to change the taste of wine? So to your point, we've gotta be looking ahead , um, and tell me a little bit, you know , uh , have a smattering of knowledge about the land visor app that you've developed. What is it and how does it help farmers?Suzanne:
Absolutely. Well, it's really marrying , um, our crop protection innovation with digital tools. This is a great example where we work with ranchers. Um, and our first concept is really looking at an invasive species across much of Texas called Mesquite. And by using satellite imagery, we can narrow in, on controlling mosquito and pastures, and also showing that rancher, the return on investment for actually clearing that mosquito , which is an invasive species, allowing him to grow much more grass, which really translates into more beef. And we can also, you know, show him the exact timing that it needs to be treated. We can scout out and show him that return all through digital tools, which is fantastic because in the past that really required one of our sales folks to go out and tromp across maybe 10,000 acres of a pasture and say, you know, which, and not just once, but two or three times to make sure it was the right time to treat. So we're, we're being more efficient, but we're also providing that rancher more information on doing a treatment, getting a return on investment that actually is going to benefit his bottom line.Phil:
Well, there's no question that the ROI is critical for farm farmers and ranchers , um, just to be able to stay in business. Um, you know, you've talked a bit about technology. Um, if you had to rate it on a scale of one to 10 for the average farmer , um, the average rancher , um, how important is technology?Suzanne:
Well, I think it, you know, at science is evolving and therefore our innovation and technology evolves and we're able to , um, really look into the future and say, well , what do farmers need? And then spend time all the way back in our discovery effort, looking at the characteristics of those products to make sure that they meet the benefits , um, for that farmer, but also , uh, from the environment and from a human health perspective, because what they need is they need to know that the products that we're bringing into , um, into the market are sustainable and they get pressure that comes all the way from the consumer back through the food value chain back to them. And if we can help them tell that story. Now the products that I'm using to produce my crop , um, is, are sustainable. It helps that, and there's more pressure on them than ever. And , and sometimes that comes from people that don't necessarily understand how our food's produced. So have having the opportunity as a supplier of an input to those farmers and ranchers to say, no , we can help you tell that great sustainability story that quite frankly you already do on your farm and ranch every day, we can just add to that, I think is quite important. IsPhil:
There any relationship between crop protection and climate change?Suzanne:
You know, I think crop protection products can actually be part of the solution to climate change. When we think about how has pressures are shifting , uh, where the crops are grown are shifting , um, you know, in the early days , uh , of my career, I thought of, you know, the Dakotas as that's, where we've grown, but obviously lots of corn and soybeans today. And so as, as the , um, landscape change on where crops are grown, the pest pressures shift and so crop protection , um, once again, sustainable crop protection products that are at very low use rates that , uh, do what they say they can do can be a valuable tool for farmers because , um, I think of the evolution of BT , uh , crops from using insecticide to having the implant protection , um, to now , um, you know, pests and weeds diseases are very smart and they tend to , uh, uh, outsmart our technology over time. So we always have to be inventing that next great technology for farmers. And , and that's what we're focused on.Phil:
Let's , let's talk about what's next. What are you hearing , uh , from farmers and from ranchers about their needs , uh , their desires, what they want you to do?Suzanne:
Well, if you think about all the pressures that farmers are under today, there's economic pressures, certainly trade barriers, tariffs, all those things right now, commodity prices are very strong, but that hasn't been the case in , in the past few years. Um, then there's the climate changes that we've talked about. Um, the droughts are more significant, the floods all around the world, but especially even in the U S and as you mentioned earlier, the significant challenges, not only with the fires in the west, but the drought and the lack of water , um, and then there's the regulatory pressures. So products that farmers have used in the past aren't aren't necessarily available anymore. So we have to be as a , uh, as an input provider, looking at products that we can bring to the market that will stay there and be a value. So you add all of that together. And I think what farmers want is they want certainty. They want to know that if they're going to grow a crop, they have the tools to make the most out of every acre that they put in production. And so certainty of availability of products, if they use those products, they're able to market their products in the regions around the world, or even locally that they want to, and that the products do what they say. They'll do.Phil:
I'm glad you brought up the drought. Um, I read a story, oh, this is a few weeks ago. Um, that almost broke my heart. Um, here in California, there was a rice farmer , um, who I think he was third or fourth generation , um, successful farming operation. Uh, but this year , uh , because of the drought made more money by selling his water to other farmers than he could have with, with growing rice. Um, what are, what are some success stories , um, that you can share , uh, that, you know , th that have really reversed the role ? So we don't have to have more stories like this, you know, rice farmer who stopped growing rice.Suzanne:
Yeah. I think that is, that is such a challenge. And, you know, when, when we look to , uh, opportunities to , uh, to, to help farmers, it is about providing tools that , uh , can stand the test of time. And some of the challenging situations they're in. And it's really hard to say when, when you have a situation like you've just described with water rights, that , um, as an input provider, we're, we're always thinking about, can we make those , uh , products, can the products that we , uh, provide help make , uh, the crops more resilient. And certainly , uh, one area that we're investing in is the area around biologicals. And there's a lot of , uh , products that we're working on around plant and soil health. Um, and certainly , um, the thing about biologicals, they're not like the traditional , uh , synthetic chemistries that we're , we're used to selling because they have to fit within an environment. Um, and the particular cropping pattern that they're , uh, that they're , uh, you know , targeted to, to work versus maybe some of our traditional products, which as long as you use the rate , um, and apply at the right time, it does work, but what they can provide is , um, uh , an extra level of , um, uh, protection for some of these challenging situations that we've seen better use of , uh , the fertilizer , um, more ability to, to uptake that fertilizer, for example. So, and we've had the opportunity to partner with a lot of really innovative firms that maybe small startups , um , or smaller companies, and what Corteva brings, is we bring , uh, both the ability to test on a large scale and market access. So while we have great innovation, we know that we don't have the , the corner of all innovation that's happening in the industry and collaboration and partnership is part of our , our vision going forward.Phil:
Corteva was one of the first companies to sign on to the decade of, of act . Um, obviously that demonstrates your current and ongoing commitment to the vision. Um , how do you align with the vision and what are your top priorities , uh, to, to happen for all of agriculture, not just for Corteva before, you know, the end of this decade?Suzanne:
I , I think , um, the decade of ag goes hand in hand with Corteva's mission and our sustainability goals. And our mission is really to improve the lives of those who produced , and those who consume, and we've established 14 sustainability goals that we'd like to achieve by 2030. And we're advancing sustainability for farmers in the areas of land, in our communities and our operations. But like I said, most importantly for farmers going forward. So I think it fits hand in glove. Um, and it's a great partnership, Suzanne,Phil:
Thank you for everything that you're doing for agriculture, for farmers, for ranchers, and being with us today on farm food facts.Suzanne:
My pleasure. Thanks, Phil .Phil:
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