Better utilization of its vast areas of pasturelands could enable Brazil to dramatically boost agricultural production without the need to clear another hectare of Amazon rainforest, cerrado, or Atlantic forest, argues a new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change.
Modeling agricultural yield potential, Brazilian researchers from the International Institute for Sustainability, Brazil’s agricultural research agency Embrapa, and the national space research agency INPE find that Brazil could turn more than 30 million hectares of land that is currently pasture over to more productive crops, increasing overall agricultural output.
“Our analysis shows that Brazil already has enough to absorb the largest expansion of agricultural production in the world in the next three decades, without deforesting an additional hectare of natural areas and agricultural livestock areas,” said lead author Bernardo Strassburg, a professor at Pontificia Universidade Catolica (PUC-Rio) and executive director at the International Institute for Sustainability. “The key is to increase productivity of the pasture areas. Today we use only a third of the potential of our pasture, and if we pass this potential and use half of it, in 30 years we could increase the production of meat by 50%, and release 32 million acres for other crops such as soybeans and planted forests.”