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Vanderley Porfírio-da-Silva

Researcher at Embrapa Florestas


The integration of crops, livestock and forestry in the 2020's decade

In the nearly five decades of world existence, the agrosilvopastoral concept has been understood and defined in multiple ways, sometimes referring to a scale of specific interest in a way of producing. The acronym iLPF was coined by Embrapa to refer to the Crop, Livestock, Forest integration as a land use strategy that goes beyond a specific production system.

The potential contribution to recovery and conservation alongside land productivity has been expressed in many ways, emphasizing soil conservation, land degradation, food security, integrated natural resource management, or biodiversity conservation.

The range of available studies includes trees and their forestry, interactions between tree and non-tree components, the interactions between land, labor, knowledge and risk at farm scale, dynamics of tree cover and its change in time and space, chains of value starting with tree production, grain, fodder and livestock production, and the policy domains of forestry, agriculture and livestock in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, responsible trade in globalizing markets and global climate change. The inclusion of these approaches in a single term may indicate the need for greater clarity about the different scales involved and their connections.

The featured figure provides a typology of different components that can be seen nested together: compatible, but distinct in concepts, methods, and practical and policy implications. The various definitions that have been given for agrosilvopastoral systems reflect this aspect.

The activities of grain farming, cattle raising on pasture, and forestry in planted forests, coexist and can converge to the integration of Crop, Livestock, Forest.

In the first studies, from the 1970s to the 1980s , the focus was on the silviculture product, the cattle being inserted in conventional forest plantations with the primary purpose of controlling the understory; the cash flow improvement that can come from animal production in the early years of forest growth was neglected.

In the 1990s, the silvopastoral focus on livestock production emerged, with trees planted at low density in the pastures, usually on the occasion of the practice of pasture reform, the priority was for the protection of cattle (shade), the control of soil erosion and, without priority, for income from tree products, an aspect verifiable in the neglect of silvicultural practices .

Silvicultural approach in the 1990s added intercropping with crops in the first year of growth of forest plantations, aiming at the benefits of agricultural cultivation in tree growth and the amortization of forestry investment; in some cases, cultivation of first-year crops was followed by grazing to increase protection against wildfires.

Thus, although compatible, in the 1990s, two typologies predominated, distinct in concepts, methods and practical and political implications. The dichotomy between forestry and agriculture was clear.

In the early 2000s, in addition to trees in the pasture reform, the introduction of trees began in the middle of pastures that had already been formed. Although on a small scale, dairy farming introduced trees into pastures under grazing, but still with the priority of protecting the cattle and controlling soil erosion. Already in the middle of the decade, as a result of actions in the 1980s and 1990s , which had converted conventional pastures into silvopastoral ones , the products of trees began to be perceived. This maturation of actions to convert pastures into silvopastorals reinforces the afforestation of pastures for the protection of cattle and awakening to obtaining products from the trees, and the control of soil erosion is maintained as a side effect.

The accumulation of experiences in the field and the increase in the technical-scientific critical mass provided, in the 2010s, the implementation of the ABC Plan , Low Carbon Emission Agriculture, where agrosilvopastoral technology appeared for the first time as one of the strategies for the “Consolidation of of a Low-Carbon Economy in Agriculture”. In this process of accumulating knowledge and increasing critical mass, some facts contribute to the Crop, Livestock, Forest integration strategy being considered an innovation:

Creation of the Lavoura, Pecuária, Floresta integration network by a public-private partnership in 2012, which in 2018 became an association co-financed by companies. It aims to “accelerate the adoption of agrosilvopastoral technologies for the sustainable intensification of Brazilian agriculture”.

Promulgation of Law 12,805, of April 29, 2013, which instituted the National Policy for the Integration of Crops, Livestock, Forestry. Brazilian scientific research establishes the first protocol for the decarbonization of beef cattle, generating, in 2015, the concept brand “Carne Carbono Neutro” which meets, among others, the objective of decarbonizing livestock.

The 2018 edition of ExpoForest , one of the largest fairs, typically forestry, in the world, demonstrated in a dynamic part the integration between forestry and cattle raising.

Thus, in the 2010s there were reinforcements in the understanding of the Crop, Livestock, Forest integration strategy . For the forest approach, there were results from grazing in massive forests thinned for the production of wood for sawing, consolidating knowledge about the role of grazing in controlling the understory in forest plantations and in protection against forest fires; and, also on the possibility of amortization of forestry investment with livestock production.

In 2021 the ABC Plan was extended until 2030 by ABCmais Plan version , which has green funds to finance improvements and advances achieved in the previous phase, with the expansion and incorporation of new technologies and production chains in the effort for the sustainable intensification of Brazilian agriculture.

ExpoForest 2023 will demonstrate, on a real scale, the integration of forestry and cattle raising for the production of forest biomass under an alternative spatial arrangement to that of a forest mass. Beginning in the 2020s, signs of new concept brands emerge, such as "native carbon", which aims to value native trees; the carbon neutral calf and the neutral carbon leather, all for valuing the livestock product in a silvopastoral system .

Initiatives such as agrosilvopastoral for the production of forest biomass and animal products with emissions mitigated by the woody biomass remaining in the soil (roots) to increase the carbon stock will introduce a new paradigm to the current business model in forestry promotion.

Using the learning of the Crop, Livestock, Forest integration strategy, different institutions and companies have created agrosilvopastoral systems with native oil-producing trees and palm trees in the perspective of producing new biofuels and low carbon emission products.

By 2030, new facts based on science will reaffirm the “marriage” of agriculture and forestry and will consolidate agrosilvopastoral technologies for the Crop, Livestock, Forest integration strategy to integrate landscapes.