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October 19, 2017

Rate of Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon Region declines in 2017

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

After three years of increasing deforestation, the Brazilian government announced that 2017 recorded a 21% decrease in deforestation in the Amazon Region compared to a year earlier. The National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) is the organization responsible for compiling the data on deforestation.

Inpe reported that between August 2016 and July 2017, 2,834 square kilometers of the Amazon Region was deforested (700,000 acres) compared to 3,580 square kilometers the previous year (884,200 acres).

The vast majority of deforestation in the Amazon Region is for the creation of pastures for cattle grazing. A researcher for the non-profit organization Imazon, Paulo Barreto, accredits the current drop in deforestation to declining cattle prices. He feels deforestation can be reduced even further by better utilizing the 10 million hectares of pastures in the Amazon Region that are currently being underutilized according to data from Inpe and Embrapa.

The Brazilian agricultural research service, Embrapa, has been conducting research for a number of years on how to renew degraded pastures. These are pastures with a low carrying capacity due to low fertility or erosion. Environmental groups have also been pressing the Brazilian government for improving the productivity on land that has already been cleared instead of clearing virgin land.

Embrapa has also promoted the use of degraded pastures outside of the Amazon Region as a way to increase row crop production. The practice of clearing huge swaths of virgin land to plant row crops is over in Brazil and the emphasis now is being put on more productively utilizing land that has already been cleared. It is estimated that there are millions of hectares of degraded pastures that could relatively easily be converted to productive row crop production.