November 28, 2016

Brazil could Double Ag Prod. Without impacting Amazon Forest

While we are looking at the potential for soybean production in northern South America, let's also look at how the land is being utilized in Brazil. Brazil is a very large country with a total land area of 850,280,588 hectares compared to the United States at 835,509,607 hectares (excluding Alaska) and nearly all of Brazil has a tropical or semi-tropical climate.

We hear a lot about deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and that is occurring of course, but it is good to put things in perspective. Of Brazil's total land area, 61% is still in its native vegetation with 8% in cultivated crops, 19.7% in pastures, and 11.4% in urban areas and other forms of infrastructure.

The breakdown for cultivated crops is that 67% is in annual crops and 32% is in permanent or multi-year crops. Of the annual crops, 67% is soybeans, 36% is corn, with the remainder in dry beans, cotton, rice, horticultural crops, etc. Of the permanent or multi-year crops, 11.7% is sugarcane, 9.5% is forestry plantations used for pulp production, 4.6% is fruit crops, 3.4% is coffee, and 2.8% is other. Put in another way, approximately 4% of Brazil's land area is currently being used for soybean production.

Since there are at least twice as many hectares of pastures in Brazil than cultivated crops, the Brazilian agricultural research service (Embrapa) has been heavily promoting the conversion of degraded pastures to additional row crop production as the way to increase agricultural production without the need to clear any additional land.

This idea has taken hold and in fact, the majority of new soybean production in the state of Mato Grosso in recent years has been from the conversion of pastures to crop production. Embrapa and many other agricultural specialists in Brazil feel that Brazil could at least double its agricultural production without having to cut another tree. It's all about increasing the productivity of land that has already been cleared instead of clearing new land.