of boosting yields and less a result of increased land use.
The country is undoubtedly using more land for agriculture. Land under cultivation has increased by one-third and numerous challenges remain to ensure biodiversity conservation is not overrun by agriculture and deforestation in the cerrado and Amazon regions. In general, however, agricultural production is 10 times the level of land use. Grain production in the cerrado increased 129.7 percent from 1991 to 2007 but the corresponding area cultivated increased by only 25.9 percent.
Brazil’s success increasing yields is less about importing and attempting to replicate other nations’ identical agricultural successes of the past. That approach rarely works. Brazil’s achievements are instead more noteworthy for blending agricultural research and innovation with actual conditions on the ground.
As Brazil developed its agricultural sector, both the private and public sector dedicated resources to agricultural research and the United States provided considerable support. Brazil focused on enhancing soil quality, low-technology cross-breeding of plant varieties, and a willingness to explore innovative techniques such as no-till agriculture that results in more nutrient and carbon-rich soil.
Brazil has also made impressive commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 36 percent to 39 percent by 2020 by reducing deforestation by 80 percent in the Amazon and 40 percent in the cerrado savannah.
Brazil can put this knowledge and experience to use in helping the rest of the developing world enhance its agricultural development.
Today’s rising global food prices are a harbinger of things to come. FAO experts estimate global agricultural productivity must double in 40 years to keep pace with increased demand and a projected global population of 9.1 billion in 2050.
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