The researchers conducted measurements and collected 6,000 soil samples from 135 regions in south-central Brazil, which is responsible for more than 90% of Brazil's sugarcane production.
At each of the sites, soil samples were collected from areas of sugarcane cultivation and from other areas to be used as reference. These reference areas included pastures, annual cropland (soybean, sorghum and corn) and Cerrado native vegetation.
According to the researchers, the study findings could contribute toward guiding expansion policies for sugarcane production aimed at producing ethanol to ensure the biofuel's sustainability - Ethanol demand in Brazil is expected to jump from an annual total of 25 million liters to 61.6 billion liters by 2021.
The professor indicated that to reach this number, the area of sugarcane production in Brazil would need to expand from the current 9.7 million hectares to 17 million hectares.
Cerri notes that among the options for reaching the target area, the priority for expansion of production is expected to be the conversion of degraded lands, principally those used as pastures, into sugarcane plantations.
Between 2000 and 2010, three million Brazilian hectares were converted to sugarcane cultivation areas. More than 70% of this land consisted of pastures, and 25% had been used for growing grains, said the study's researchers.
|Contact: Samuel Antenor|
Fundao de Amparo Pesquisa do Estado de So Paulo