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January 7, 2013

State of Bahia in Brazil Invests in Expanded Agricultural Research

The state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil is investing heavily in expanding agricultural research as a way of diversifying the state's agriculture and making it more resistant to the periodic droughts that hit the region. The Agricultural Development Company of Bahia (EBDA) has opened a series of 13 laboratory/research stations across the state over the last two years researching various aspects of agricultural production including: soil and water analysis, water resources available for irrigation, seed certification, bee keeping, chemical residues in fruit and vegetables, insect control on fruits and vegetables, sisal production, alternative vegetable oil production for biodiesel, even the production of forage cactus as an alternative animal feed during the dry season.

One of EBDA's more ambitious programs is the Small Family Farmer Livestock Feed Security Program. The goal of this program is to assist the thirty thousand small family farmers in the state to grow enough forage to keep their small livestock operations viable during prolonged periods of dry weather when pastures go dormant. These livestock operations include dairy cattle, beef cattle as well as goat and sheep production.

The main emphasis of the program is the research and production of forage cactus which is suitable for animal feed. In 2012, technicians from the program planted over four million forage cactus plants at various research locations scattered throughout the state. These are large fleshy cactus plants that can thrive in the region's semi-arid climate and can be harvested for animal feed during the dry season. This species of cactus does not have the spines normally associated with cactus allowing it to be cut up and fed to animals.

Researchers are investigating the disease resistance and production potential of numerous species of forage cactus. The cactus plants will be distributed to farmers throughout the state during a series of field days and seminars where farmers will be instructed on how best to grow the cactus and its role in proper animal nutrition.