Brazil has a plan to increase agricultural production without the use of new lands. Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, says that it intends to work in order to help Brazilian agribusiness recover degraded areas and cultivate places that were considered not usable anymore.Â
According to the new president of the institution, Pedro Antonio Arraes Pereira, 80 million hectares (309,000 square miles, an area greater than California a Montana put together) may be salvaged through technology.
Such recovery, by the way, is one of the priorities in Arraes' administration. According to him, two million hectares (equivalent to a state of Massachusetts) have already been recovered in the country.
According to the president of Embrapa, the degraded areas are mostly those used for cattle raising. In many of them, pasture was planted during long periods, as long as 30 years, in soil that was already poor. One of the most viable alternatives, according to Arraes, is crop-cattle-forest integration.
Under this system, one single piece of land receives pasture, with animals, during one period, and grain during another, in addition to forests. "The re-sowing of pasture may be done using maize or rice, thus reducing the pressure on new areas," explains Arraes.
However, according to the president of the Embrapa, the use of these technologies for recovering degraded areas needs to be encouraged. In the case of crop-cattle-forest integration, for instance, farmers who work with cattle raising do not possess the machinery required for working with grain.
"The technology exists, but people must be encouraged to use it," stated Arraes. He believes that by recovering degraded pastures, it will be possible to double the Brazilian herd.
The president of the Embrapa made his statement this August 24 at a press conference in the capital of the state of São Paulo. He also mentioned another concern – and priority – of the research institution, which is the Brazilian dependence on imported fertilizers. Presently, 70% of the fertilizer used in the country, particularly phosphate and potassium, come from abroad.
The Embrapa is going to work to increase the rate of absorption of fertilizers by plants. Currently, according to him, they absorb 50% on average. Another action of Embrapa's should be to seek new raw materials for fertilizer manufacturing, such as organic matter and residue.
There already are some efforts along those lines underway, for using organic fertilizers, but the major challenges are to produce in large-scale and to make the products economically viable, so that they may compete with the leading brands in the industry.