Sustainable Agriculture in Brazil
CHAPTER 6 – TROPICAL INTENSIFICATION
NATIVE FORESTS SAVED BY THE AGRICULTURE lNTENSIFICATION
Brazil is the only country in the tropical belt of the globe to become an agricultural power. Management technologies have transformed poor soils into fertile land. The tropicalization of crops, with differentiated cycles, has enabled the use of lands in all climatic conditions. Sustainable management and practices are an arsenal of environmental advocacy.
In 1972, the grain harvest was 30 million tons for a planted area of 28 million hectares. In 2016, production was 240 million tons for an area of 60 million hectares. The cultivated area increased 80% and production, more than 500%. This “vertical” growth in production prevented the deforestation of more than 100 million hectares of forests and cerrados.
To produce current crops with the productivity of 1972 would require another 100 million hectares of new areas, incorporated by means of deforestation. Therefore, saving forests is not a promise not to deforest, but rather a fact of preservation derived from the green intensification of Brazilian agriculture.
The view of producers regarding the actual conditions of soil, water, biodiversity, photoperiodism and tropical climate led Brazil to disconnect itself from the agricultural heritage brought over by immigrants from temperate countries, and from technologies imported like black boxes. Consequently, new ways of practicing agriculture, livestock raising and forestry were devised. This enabled the intensification of production and the development of many adapted technologies, which have multiplied productivity exponentially and have allowed the conserving of protected areas, as well as the reduction of environmental impacts, thus ensuring agricultural sustainability.
Sustainability, however, is still invisible to the large urban public, accustomed to the criticism of the past, and having no access to the innovations in use in the field. Despite the excellent results obtained via mechanization; the intensification of land use; soil fertility management; industrialized pest and disease management/ control systems; the expansion of genetically modified crops, and forests that have been destined to Brazilians are still ignorant about the origin of the food abundance on their table, the fibers used in thousands of products, and the energy available for them to take trips and to work on a daily basis. City dwellers still need to learn to see the improvement in their quality of life and well-being as a result of the intensification of agriculture on tropical bases. But their views on Brazilian agriculture have begun to change. According to recent research, Brazilians living in the country’s main capitals know about and take pride in the work being done by the immense agricultural chain, far from the great urban centers.
From the book: Shades of Green – Sustainable Agriculture in Brazil (2018)
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