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May 3, 2017

Impact of Soybean Moratorium on Land Use in Mato Grosso

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

If you ever wanted to learn more about how soybean expansion is occurring in central Brazil, here is your chance. Researchers from the University of Kansas and Embrapa in Brazil just published the definitive study concerning the impact of what is called the "soybean moratorium" on the advancing agricultural frontier in Brazil.

The article is titled: "With unique data, researchers track the effect of Brazil's Soy Moratorium on an advancing agricultural frontier" and here is the link: https://news.ku.edu/2017/04/24/unique-data-researchers-track-impact-brazils-soy-moratorium-advancing-agricultural

The soybean moratorium went into effect in 2006 and I have written about the moratorium many times over the years. The moratorium was a groundbreaking agreement between environmental groups and multinational agricultural corporations that agreed to not purchase any soybeans produced on illegally cleared land after July of 2006. One key component of the agreement was that it designated independent environmental groups and agencies to be in charge of verifying the data. The public did not have to rely on companies policing themselves to insure that the policies were being followed.

There has been antidotal evidence that the moratorium was working, but we did not have the hard data until now. The study clearly shows that after the moratorium went into effect, there was a switch in Mato Grosso from the clearing of virgin land for new agricultural production to a more intensive use of existing land to increase production. This moratorium helped to spur what I think has been the major development in Brazilian agriculture over the past decade - the increasing use of double cropping a second crop of corn or cotton after the first crop of soybeans.

The study has detailed maps showing the type of vegetation in Mato Grosso (Amazon, Cerrado, and Pantanal) and the cropping patterns in the state such as pastures, single crop soybeans, soybeans double cropped with corn, soybeans double cropped with cotton, single crop cotton, and sugarcane.

The study focused on Mato Grosso because it is the largest producer of soybeans, corn, cotton, and cattle in Brazil. To put the state in perspective, it produces about as many soybeans as Iowa, Illinois, and half of Indiana combined yet it still has 30 million head of cattle and huge areas of forest and protected indigenous areas. When you look at the maps, you soon realize just how little of Mato Grosso is actually dedicated to crop production.

It is a very interesting read for anyone curious about Brazilian agriculture.