Growing agricultural productivity in Brazil: Efficiency, innovation and sustainability


50 years in the past, my nation relied on meals imports to feed itself. Right now we feed 10% of the world’s inhabitants. 

Let me inform you in regards to the agronomic science and innovation which has made this doable.

A essential step on this journey got here in 1973, with the creation of Embrapa. This nationwide agri-food analysis company had a transparent mission: to advertise agronomic science in Brazil, and assist our farmers use the most recent improvements to thrive in Brazil’s tropical local weather. 


In these early days, Embrapa´s researchers had been centered on utilizing agri-science to ramp up meals manufacturing. Fortuitously, they had been terribly profitable. Between 1980 and 2020, Brazil greater than quadrupled its grain manufacturing. However maybe essentially the most shocking side was that – within the course of – the science led us in an surprising route – in direction of even greater sustainability.

In these forty years, as Brazil’s grain manufacturing grew 406%, the world farmed grew by solely 64%. Researchers unlocked the potential of crop rotation, soil fertilization and adaptation to tropical situations – discovering pure synergies which make the land extra productive whereas defending it from degradation.

Over time, Embrapa’s focus moved from merely maximising manufacturing, to growing manufacturing in a sustainable method, by defending ecosystems and harnessing the facility of nature. Over time Embrapa’s analysis moved us away from an agricultural mannequin of man dominating nature and towards one the place farmers develop in concord with nature.


As an example, it’s well-known that crops want nitrogen (N) to develop. In lots of nations, the chief supply of this N is chemical fertilisers. Sadly, extreme use of those fertilisers has been linked to groundwater air pollution and to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the environment, together with CO2 launched within the means of synthesis and transportation, and the potent nitrous oxide.

Nevertheless, there’s a safer, cheaper and extra pure different, which considerably reduces the necessity for chemical fertilisers represented by the organic nitrogen fixation (BNF) course of. Particular microorganisms can convert the atmospheric nitrogen (N2) right into a type that the crops can soak up. Essentially the most important contribution to agriculture happens with the micro organism, collectively referred to as “rhizobia”, in symbiotic affiliation with some legume crops.

The primary experiments of BNF in Brazil began within the Nineteen Twenties with soybean, however intensification occurred when the crop began to broaden, within the late Nineteen Fifties. For the soybean, micro organism choice and breeding packages had been very profitable in figuring out elite strains, in a position to present all N required by crops to achieve excessive yields. Right now, Brazil is understood for attaining the very best contribution of BNF with the soybean crop.  Embrapa has additionally contributed to the collection of elite strains for different legume crops, together with vital grain crops such because the cowpea, widespread bean and pea, along with pastures and bushes. 

Presently, Embrapa is growing new research on micro organism in a position to repair N2 on sugarcane, maize, wheat and rice crops. 

With help from Embrapa – and consistent with Brazil’s local weather commitments –, a goal was set to advertise BNF, and apply it in over 5.5 million hectares of farmland by 2020. That concentrate on was not solely met, however was dramatically exceeded, two years forward of schedule. By 2018 BNF was being utilized in over 10.6 million hectares of farmland: 193% of the unique goal. 

In accordance with estimates, supplying soybeans with N by way of BNF, moderately than utilizing N fertilizers prevented the emission of 200 Megatons of CO2 equal, in only one harvest, along with an annual saving estimated at $8 billion.

Right now, because the world faces a scarcity of fertiliser – and because the probably dangerous results of extreme fertiliser use change into extra evident – it’s extra vital than ever for farmers throughout Brazil – and past – to embrace the advantages of BNF.

Right now, 80% of the soybean space in Brazil is inoculated to offer N to the crop. This represents round 30 million ha. 

In step with nationwide local weather commitments, our goal is to broaden this know-how, the BNF, on 13 million hectares of farmland by 2030.   This enlargement can be not solely on soybean, but additionally on different leguminous crops, similar to edible beans, primarily and in crops, such these planted below the Crop-Livestock-Forest programs. Farmers in over 17 million hectares have adopted this method.  


Conventional tillage farming – the place a tractor ploughs a whole discipline earlier than sowing crops – has change into the norm in lots of nations, considered as the simplest technique of planting and rising meals. In Brazil, the best contribution of NT is expounded to much less soil erosion in comparison with ploughed programs. Soil erosion is by far the most important drawback of soil degradation resulting in meals insecurity and poverty in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Nevertheless, Embrapa has helped to determine the quite a few advantages of ‘No Until Farming’. By planting seeds straight into the untilled floor (a lot as the traditional Incas and Egyptians did) Brazilian farmers use much less gas, whereas preserving moisture and natural matter within the soil. This can be a extra productive method to make use of the soil which, over time, results in a major discount in soil erosion. 

Brazil is without doubt one of the world leaders in soil and water conservation as a result of widespread use of no-tillage (NT) for annual crops similar to soybean, maize, wheat, cotton and customary beans. The follow of NT was first launched within the Seventies by pioneer farmers protecting 33 million hectares as we speak.

Between 3.3 and 5.0 million hectares of the world below NT exhibits everlasting soil cowl, crop rotation with cowl crops and inexperienced manure. Charges of annual C sequestration could attain 0,4 t C/ha. Research developed in Embrapa have proven that the decomposition of NT nitrogen-rich residues doesn’t result in greater N2O emissions than ploughed programs

We aimed to extend about  8 million hectares extra, farmed on this method by 2020. However once more this goal was exceeded early. By 2018, we had already reached 159% of our purpose, serving to to cut back Brazil’s carbon emissions by roughly 30.63 million tons. 

We at the moment are broadening the implementation of ‘No Until Farming’ system to incorporate greens and increasing the floor of 12.5 million hectares of farmland by 2030. 

In accordance with a research printed by the Institute for Analysis in Utilized Economics, the implementation of those methods, along with the planting of forests and the restoration of pastures, between 2010 and 2020 alone, led to the mitigation of about 152.93 million tons of CO2 equal. This implies Brazil reached 113% of the carbon discount goal it signed as much as at COP15. 

On the identical time, in response to a current research, Brazil’s grains and oilseeds now feed roughly 10% of the world’s inhabitants.


However we all know from our scientists that we nonetheless have extra to realize. We recognise the significance of striving for a extra sustainable meals system to play our half in tackling world local weather change. 

We’ve now set one other bold purpose: to chop 1.1 billion tons of CO2 emissions from Brazilian agribusiness by 2030. This determine is seven occasions greater than the one we set for 2020. 

To attain this, Brazil is continuous to advertise and embrace new applied sciences in sustainable agri-food. This contains the “intensive grazing termination” technique – the place feed is supplied to animals within the drought interval – permitting Brazilian farmers to fatten cattle extra rapidly earlier than slaughter, thus lowering livestock CO2 emissions. By making use of this technique to five million cattle, we are able to mitigate an estimated 1,042 million Mg of CO2 equal. We may also improve the quantity of handled animal waste by 208.40 million m3.

General, Brazil goals to use sustainable applied sciences to a complete of 72.60 million hectares of farmland – an space greater than twice the dimensions of the UK. 

As we transfer ahead, we should proceed to help the elevated adoption of sustainable practices in Brazil and past: figuring out additional improvements and carefully monitoring our progress towards a decrease carbon future.

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