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July 20, 2017

Pasture Burning in Mato Grosso Prohibited for the Next two Months

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

The weather in central Brazil is currently hot and dry, which is typical for the dry season. No significant rainfall is expected until sometime in September with the return of the summer rainy season. During the dry season in Mato Grosso, unauthorized pasture burning is prohibited from July 15th to September 15th.

Years ago, Mato Grosso was famous for being the premier cattle ranching region of Brazil, but now it is more famous for being the premier soybean and corn producing state in Brazil, but it also still has the largest cattle herd of any state in Brazil. Traditionally, ranchers in Mato Grosso would burn off their dry pastures during the dry season to encourage the grass to send up new green shoots for the cattle. Without burning off the dry vegetation, it is difficult for the cattle to get to any green vegetation. While burning may be an easy way to encourage new grass growth, it worsens environmental problems and poses a risk for the safrinha corn in the state that is now being harvested.

If a pasture fire crosses into a dry corn field, the entire field could quickly be consumed by the fire. As a result of environmental and safety concerns, the state in recent years has prohibited any pasture burning during the height of the dry season. The Agricultural and Livestock Federation of Mato Grosso (Famato) has advised its members about the prohibition on burning off pastures and the potential fines if a rancher ignores the prohibition.

If a farmer intentionally sets fire to his pasture between July 15th and September 15th, he may be fined from R$ 1,000 to R$ 7,500 per hectare (approximately $125 to $930 per acre) with the risk of imprisonment. In urban areas, the use of fire to clean areas around homes and business is prohibited year round.

The state government of Mato Grosso has launched their "Plan to Prevent and Combat Fires" with a R$ 3 million investment. In addition to prevention programs, they have positioned 18 military firefighting brigades in the state where fires are more prevalent. Included in these brigades are 1,400 firefighters, various firefighting equipment, including two airplanes and a helicopter in case they must fight forest fires.

This is also the time of the year when farmers harvest their safrinha corn and there will inevitable be some combine fires as well. Some suggestions on how to minimize accidental combine fires include: maybe avoid harvesting during the heat of the day, make sure the combine is well maintained and cleaned regularly, train operators on how to avoid fires, and keep a tank of water near where the corn is being harvested in case of fire.