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  • Is Smarter Farming the Key to Saving the Rainforest?

    2010 - 02.11

    For years farming has been the rainforest’s biggest enemy but that looks like it is about to change.

    The Brazilian government are setting up experimental farms where it is hoped that crops, cattle and timber can coexist together. The system is modelled on the US practice of rotating crops and revitalising pasture instead of the usual practice of chopping down the forest and planting new grasslands. The US have been using this system for years but in the state of Mato Grosso, where ranchers and farmers have destroyed more of the Amazon than anywhere else the concept is a relatively new idea.

    Up till now the order of the day has been to take an area of forest, cut down the trees and remove the vegetation, plant pasture and let cattle graze there for approximately 20 years or until the land becomes barren and useless. The process is then repeated. As you can tell this is definitely not sustainable and to me it seems very short sighted.

    The new scheme encourages farmers that by diversifying and renewing the nutrients in the soil the same piece of land can be farmed for generations and even more crucially to them it will make more money.

    “Our integration system rapidly increases the efficiency of crop and pasture land, allowing, for example, ranchers to graze as much as five times more cattle on the same piece of ground,” Wruck said during a recent visit to the 1,850-acre Fazenda Gramada farm run by Brazil’s agricultural research agency Embrapa. “That means we can break the cycle of ranchers needing to deforest to create more pasture.”

    It is agreed by both environmentalists and the Brazilian government that cattle ranching is the biggest cause of deforestation to the Amazon. Already an estimated 20% of the Amazon has been destroyed, putting that in relative terms that is an area roughly twice the size of France.

    According to the government deforestation is slowing down thanks to their stepped up policing approach. They claim that since they started keeping records 20 years ago there has been a drop of 2,705 square miles from August 2008 to July 2009, which is 46% down on the previous year.

    Environmentalists however are not convinced and claim that the real reason behind the slow down in deforestation is because of the economic downturn and the drop in demand for cattle, soy and timber.

    The government has pledged to reduce deforestation by 80% within a decade but with only 1,400 agents overseeing about 2 million square miles of the Amazon with the majority of those bunched in targeted areas. The challenge now is to foster smarter farming.

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    One Response to “Is Smarter Farming the Key to Saving the Rainforest?”

    1. […] I might have found this a bit frustrating, but since Chicago is a mecca for advertising…Is Smarter Farming the Key to Saving the Rainforest?For years farming has been the rainforest's biggest enemy but that looks like it is about to change. […]

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