Research and Innovation impact Brazilian Agriculture

by: Maurício Antônio Lopes*

In the last forty years, there have been abundant leadership manifestations recognizing the virtuous course of Brazilian agriculture and livestock research around the world. Thanks to investments in research and educational institutions and the preparation of competencies, strengthened beginning in the 1970s, Brazil stopped being a foodstuff importer at that time. This was embarrassing for a continental country, endowed with such extraordinary natural resources. There had not been any tropical agricultural model until then to transform the acidic lands of the “cerrado” (Savanna) into fertile soils and raise plants and animals adapted to tropical conditions. Thus, our scientists had to create it.

Technology became the key factor explaining the success of Brazilian agriculture that nowadays provides diversified foodstuff supply to the population with stable prices, guaranteeing surpluses for exportation and and positive results in the trade balance. There has been persistent public investments, which has been a fundamental prerequisite for this progress, since it enabled pubic research to generate the necessary knowledge, so that private research could be established and safely invest in crystalized technologies on machinery and inputs, which are their natural niche, thereby continually expanding the productive capacity of the country.

The recent course of Brazilian agricultural and livestock research expresses this natural division of responsibilities, with stress from the private sector on more intensive capital initiatives and make trade exploration feasible. The private sector prioritizes the development of new seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals, and machinery in Brazil, as well as the rest of the world, and the public sector concentrates on generating indispensable knowledge for improving crop production.

Public research, in turn, generates knowledge for more efficient usage of inputs; improved crop spacing; animal and vegetable sanitary defense; risk mapping and good practices for overcoming those risks; development of new vegetable varieties, animal breeds, and their usage in innovative production systems; among many other missions. Just at Embrapa, there have been 1,200 research projects carried out on about 100 subjects relevant to Brazilian agricultural.

The course of Brazilian public research is packed-full of results and notable impacts, such as

Climatic Risk Zoning and the Low Carbon Agricultural Program (ABC) — jointly composing the most powerful public sustainable policies in the country. Embrapa, currently, leads the development of intensive and integrated systems, reuniting crops, livestock, and forests to produce meat, grains, fibers, and energy with extremely low carbon liquid emissions, or in some situations, collecting more than is released. Shortly, Brazilian products branded as “neutral carbon” will gain increased market share, by adding value and competiveness to tropical agriculture.

Brazilian researchers are daily producing valuable information to to deal with many of current and pressing agricultural challenges. For this reason, Brazil cannot proceed without a greater and strengthened Alliance for Agricultural and Livestock Innovation, integrating Embrapa, universities,state governmental organizations and the private sector.

*President of Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation)