Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sustainable crops for farmers in the Sertão, Brazil

04.09.2006
The Sertão is the hinterland of the Nordeste region. It is semi-arid, and has traditionally been a zone of extensive animal production. However, some thirty years ago, population growth reduced land availability and necessitated a switch to more intensive production systems. The State opted to promote the Green Revolution. However, due to the difficulty of taking account of the climatic and thus economic risks, the operation was a failure.

In the hope of rectifying matters, controlled, or so-called "agroecological", modernization was launched a decade ago. It is based on the assumption that systems can be made more productive by changing farming practices. In particular, the idea is to make better use of the available water, soils and biodiversity so as to produce more biomass.

The aim is also to manage biomass more efficiently, so as both to feed ever-larger numbers of animals and ensure that minerals and organic matter are returned to the soil and thus to crops. The need now is to judge the efficacy of these new practices. What indicators should be chosen with a view to sustainable development?

To answer that question, researchers at CIRAD and EMBRAPA suggested a methodology for establishing indicators of production system sustainability. It comprised three stages: establishing a conceptual framework, padding out that framework with field surveys, and comparing the suggested indicators with those put forward by farmers, to ensure their relevance.

The first two stages resulted in a set of eight indicators: changes in the area of native vegetation, mineral balance, production revenues and costs, fodder balance, the proportion of the fodder balance drawn from outside the farm, changes in animal numbers, changes in security areas and diversification of sources of agricultural income. They resulted from a conceptual framework based on three tenets. Firstly, the production areas and biomass flows within the farm were characterized so as to understand and assess the farmer's production strategy. Farming practices are geared towards producing and managing biomass flows.

It is those flows that change a farm's resource status from an initial situation at the start of the farming season to a final situation at the end. For instance, harvesting fodder crops reduces the mineral reserves in a plot at the end of the season and increases fodder supplies at farm level. These changes are quantifiable and can be expressed as a balance. The proposed indicators thus correspond to end-of-season balances of the farm's resource status.

The researchers then talked to farmers. For farmers, a farm is sustainable if it enables them to feed their family and animals. It is difficult for them to identify the problems on their farm. In general, they put them down to climatic conditions alone. They also have trouble ranking criteria that are in fact interrelated and are often just different ways of qualifying the same thing. The criteria established by farmers, such as obtaining larger areas of land, improving their profits or increasing herd size, all belonged to the list established by the researchers. They also reflect aspects that were not in the list of criteria, such as labour constraints, which suggested it would be wise to include an assessment of the "labour" resource in the analysis.

Such an approach enables farmers to understand how their farming systems function, by placing their sustainability criteria in a grid that includes biomass flows and resource balances. It enables them to rank their problems and identify the real difficulties they face. The indicators have now been applied to around ten farms. In particular, the results have led farmers to rethink the fodder supply and demand balance. They have also prompted them to think about how they might diversify their supply. The analysis framework is thus a way of helping farmers think about their practices and the possibilities of changing them.

This study has already contributed to a change in practices among the farmers who took part. The next step is to validate the sustainability indicators by taking account of the parameters that are missing: the labour resource, which is a major production factor, and water resource flows.

Helen Burford | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cirad.fr/en/actualite/communique.php?id=518

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>