November 5, 2015
Crop-Livestock Rotation Emerging Trend in Brazil
In order to increase Brazilian grain production, farmers in Brazil have not only brought new land into production, they have also made more intensive use of their existing land. Brazilian farmers and scientists have been focusing on more intensive use of existing areas through increased productivity. Over the past 25 years, Brazilian grain production has increased 245% while the cultivated acreage has increased only 50%.
This more intensive use of land in Brazil is one of the primary ways that the country has been able to reduce the rate of deforestation in the Amazon Region.
The Brazilian research agency, Embrapa, has conducted extensive research on the conversion of degraded pastures into row crop production utilizing a long term rotation involving row crops and cattle production. Some innovative farmers have even included reforestation into the rotation in the form of pulp wood production. This crop-livestock rotation is currently utilized on 2 million hectares in Brazil and researchers feel it could be utilized on 20 million hectares within the next 15 years. Most of this new type of crop rotation is found in the center-west and southern regions of Brazil.
Currently, there are an estimated 50 million hectares of degraded pastures in Brazil. These are pastures that may be generations old and they generally are very low in fertility, have a low carrying capacity, and are prone to high levels of erosion.
The crop-livestock rotation has been promoted as sustainable agriculture with many benefits including: increased soil fertility, increased organic matter in the soil, reduced chemical usage, water conservation, promoting biodiversity, improved animal productivity and health, it fixes carbon in the soil, and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
This rotation helps producers to diversify their operation and has been successfully implemented in both large and small operations.