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July 18, 2019

Pasture-clearing Fires now Prohibited in Mato Grosso until Sep. 15th

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

As the annual dry season takes hold in central Brazil, the risk of fires, both accidental and intentional, increases sharply especially during the months of August and September. In order to minimize the fire potential, the state of Mato Grosso has adopted laws against the use of fire in agricultural areas during the critical dry months.

The annual prohibition on fires in the rural areas of Mato Grosso started on July 15th and it will remain in place until September 15th. The use of fire to burn off dry pasture grass or to clean agricultural areas during this period is prohibited and considered a crime punishable by fines of R$ 1,000 per hectare for pastures and agricultural land (approximately $106 per acre) and R$ 75,000 per hectare for preservation areas (approximately $8,000 per acre). Convictions can also result in a prison sentence from six months up to four years.

The Cattle Ranchers Association of Mato Grosso (Acrimat) is advising members to pick up a copy of their Producer's Guide to Preventing and Combating Fires. The guide instructs cattle ranches on how to prevent accidental fires, the construction and maintenance of fire breaks, how to reduce the amount of combustible materials, the best way to make water available through the use of cisterns and how to transport the water in case of fires, how to safely conduct controlled fires, and generally how to protect your property from fires.

Common types of pasture grass in Mato Grosso can grow very tall during the rainy season resulting in huge amounts of dry vegetation during the dry season. In years past, fire was commonly used to burn off the dry pasture grass as a way to promote new green shoots of grass for the cattle. Those types of pasture-clearing fires are now prohibited during the dry season due to environmental and health concerns of the local population.

Fires are now also prohibited in the vast majority of Brazil's sugarcane fields. In preparation for harvest, fire was traditionally used to burn off the dry leaves in order to facilitate the cutting of the sugarcane by hand. With fires now prohibited, the vast majority of Brazil's sugarcane is harvested mechanically, which eliminated the need to burn off the dry leaves.

In Brazil's urban areas, the use of fire is prohibited during the entire year. To report fires in urban areas, residents are urged to call the local Fire Department or the Environmental Secretary for the municipality. In rural areas, residents can call the State Environmental Secretary (Sema).