The restoration of degraded pastures is one of the central challenges for the compatibility of the agricultural sector with environmental protection and the fight against climate change.
For three agribusiness specialists, animal husbandry itself can be the instrument for restoring degraded pastures. The key would be a method based on nature’s behavior that mimics the migratory movements of large herds of herbivores.
In an exclusive article for the Ambience blog, they explain how they link productivity with environmental regeneration, arguing that the method can change the paradigm of Brazilian livestock.
The text was signed by the agronomist Luís Fernando Guedes Pinto of the Imaflora Institute and two ranchers who use the method on their farms: Leonardo Resende, partner at Fazenda Triqueda, doctor of geography and the environment and co-founder of the Pecuária Neutra e Regenerativ; and Filippo Leta, specialist in regenerative management and founder of the Ah Pashto brand.
The authors criticize the strategies for restoring pastures currently supported by the federal government. “None of them focus on the root cause of the problem, which is inefficient pasture management. That is, they do not prevent the deterioration from recurring in a cyclical manner. “
Read the full article below.
How to revive degraded pastures in Brazil *
There is good convergence that the adopted model of food production requires more natural resources than the planet’s biocapacity, exacerbating global warming and climatic extremes, not to mention the loss of natural land cover and biodiversity.
In accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN), one of the most important guidelines of the Global Agenda has been reducing the ecological footprint of agribusiness as part of this challenge in the context of reducing fertile land degradation globally in recent decades estimated at 1% per year.
With regard to Brazilian livestock, the main effort is focused on lowering the percentage of pasture diagnosed as degraded by 52.43% (or 90.85 million hectares) and increasing the low average productivity of the current 0.7 head / there is.
It’s worth noting that the degradation process is characterized by the loss of soil organic matter, which releases the stored carbon into the atmosphere and increases the environmental impact of the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the sector.
Map of the distribution of degraded pastures in Brazil (Image: LAPIG)
In this context, some strategies can be used to reverse this scenario, with degraded pasture reform and the implementation of Livestock-Forest Livestock Integration (ILPF) being the most common in Brazil.
Both are funded by the federal government through the Low Carbon Agriculture Plan (ABC), but paradoxically, neither of them focuses on the root cause of the problem, namely inefficient pasture management. That is, they do not prevent the deterioration from recurring in a cyclical manner.
This will also require further development of best practices related to adequate pasture management, with the potential to transform the paradigm of animal husbandry in Brazilian pasture into an effectively agroecological and sustainable production system.
In this context, Regenerative Livestock has been distributed around the world and supported by several research centers, including Arizona State University in the US and the University of Alberta in Canada, and the hubs of the Savory Institute in Brazil. , Argentina, Chile, Africa and others
Regenerative farm animals seek to mimic (or mimic) nature’s behavior by using cattle as a tool to revitalize pastures and repeating the success story of the pre-domestication era when large herds of herbivores played an important role in balancing ecosystems.
They were always kept together in large herds and in constant motion to protect themselves from predators, to prune indigenous fields in migratory movements and to contribute in a fundamental way to the nutrient cycle and the vitality of the vegetation.
By adjusting the stocking rate and the pressure of the animals in the pasture, the biomass can be divided into three similar parts: the first for animal nutrition, the second as residual organic matter deposited in the soil, and the third remaining as the base of the plant for the pasture, around one to achieve high yields and enable greater vitality for the entire system.
Based on a holistic diagnosis, a rational pasture plan is created that takes into account the seasons and pasture phases (growth and stagnation) and the context of each paddock (or each pasture) or regenerative of each productive microecosystem. .
When reading this productive microecosystem is systematic and assertive, tropical willows have the average potential of six cycles of growth in the hottest and wettest months (growth phase) and three cycles in the coldest and driest months (phase of stagnation).
With each well-managed growth cycle, more organic matter is deposited in the soil, increasing carbon stocks by around 1.4 tons of CO2 equivalent per hectare each year.
By increasing the process of photosynthesis and organic matter, the five natural pillars of the production system benefit, namely:
1) Water cycle: The additional organic substance reduces the runoff rate of rainwater as well as the soil temperature and the evapotranspiration process, increases the water availability, increases the infiltration rate and the replenishment of the groundwater table.
2) Carbon cycle: The optimization of the pasture growth cycles and an increase in organic matter represent an additional carbon sequestration with which the emissions from livestock can be reduced.
3) Energy balance: the most efficient management prefers the conservation of energy through syntropic processes (as opposed to traditional and entropic livestock).
4) Nutrient dynamics: more photosynthesis means more carbohydrates, which benefits both animal nutrition and the overall local biodiversity;
5) Dynamics of Macro and Microbiology: When more water and carbohydrates are available, the entire trophic chain benefits from fungi, mites, mycorrhizae, nitrogen fixators, nematodes, small insects, rodents, birds and even predators at the top of the chain.
The paradigm break that this intelligent production model represents from an ecological and climatic point of view indicates the possibility that animal protein sources (e.g. meat, leather, milk and dairy products) can have a differentiated origin, whereby these products are not available merely as Raw materials are called that are worth how much they weigh, but according to their intrinsic value, which is related to the sustainability indicator.
With regard to the figure of the rural producer, international experience shows that this model has brought him closer to an end user, with a modern profile and a desire for products with a lower environmental impact, shortening the links in the production chain and increasing his profitability.
Such regenerative practices are not only much more complex, they also offer many more benefits. They are intensifying the search for a safe source of animal protein that can mitigate climate change, help society address food security challenges, and restore degraded areas. .
Brazil is already dominating regenerative livestock technologies. Food Tank, a North American institution dedicated to building a sustainable global community, has published a list of the “28 Most Innovative Animal Husbandry Projects In The World Shaping the Future of Animal Protein.”
Among these, two Brazilian initiatives were selected that are both part of the neutral and regenerative livestock project: the Triqueda Farm and Ecofarms, the latter also bearing the Rainforest Alliance livestock seal and audited by the Forest and Agricultural Management and Certification Institute (Imaflora) in the social, economic and environmental dimensions.
The next step is to develop public policies and market incentives that multiply these examples and make large-scale use of Brazilian sustainable livestock.
* By Leonardo de Oliveira Resende of Fazenda Triqueda, PhD in Geography and Environment and co-founder of the Neutral and Regenerative Livestock project; Luís Fernando Guedes Pinto, researcher at Imaflora, agronomist, PhD in agronomy and member of the Folha Social Entrepreneurs Network; and Filippo Fernando Bouzon Leta, specialist in holistic and regenerative management, founder of the Ah Pashto brand and member of the Savory Institute in Brazil.