War in Ukraine: Brazil turns to natural fertilizers

RIO DE JANEIRO: Faced with a shortage of fertilizers and the risk of their prices rising with sanctions aimed at Russia, Brazil’s agricultural sector is leaning towards natural alternative solutions to reduce its production costs while ensuring its harvest.

Made from nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – used to prepare soil for soybean, corn, cotton and sugarcane fields and coffee – the South American giant NPK is the world’s 4th largest consumer of chemical fertilizers.

It imports about 80% of these inputs and about a quarter of these purchases come from Russia, its main supplier.

As the Brazilian government approaches other foreign suppliers, including Canada, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, and seeks to revive domestic fertilizer production, farmers are interested in so-called “emerging” products.

These include natural remineralizers (or “agro-minerals”) derived from nutrient-rich rocks, crushed and spread in the field before sowing.

Other countries such as France, the United States, Canada, India and Australia use this reminder, while Brazil, a leading agricultural power, is the most advanced in this regard.

“Brazil is a tropical country and carries nutrients from rainfed soils. Rock powder allows it to renew its ecosystem and improve its performance,” explained Marcio Remedio, AFP’s director of geology and mineral resources. Associated with the Ministry of Services, Mines and Energy of Brazil

Approved as an agricultural inputs by a 2013 law, reminilizers “allow plant roots to develop further and capture nutrients present in the soil”, noted Suzy Huff Theodoro, a geologist and researcher at the University of Brasilia.

“Rocks with the right profile are found in many parts of Brazil and are much cheaper than chemicals,” he added. The powder, for example, can be made by mining companies from their residues, as long as it does not contain potentially toxic ingredients.

Almost no more chemical fertilizers

“According to a survey conducted last year, about 5% of Brazil’s agricultural surface is used as a reminderizer. By the end of the year, this number will be much more significant because the recognized demand from 30 Brazilian suppliers is unprecedented.

“Most have already sold all of their annual production, on both large and medium-sized farms and small farms, especially on agro-ecological farms,” ​​the researchers point out.

Founder of the Associated Group for Sustainable Agriculture (GAAS), which brings together more than 700 farmers, researchers and consultants, Rogerio Vian, a soybean and corn grower, began using products made from microorganisms extracted from local forests. Sowing time.

These control pests and help the plant absorb nutrients from the soil. For nine years, on his farm in the state of Goa (center-west), he has been preparing his own biological inputs and combining them with Reminiser.

Now, on his 1,000 hectares of land, he uses almost no chemical fertilizers, not even for soybean cultivation.

“I have reduced my fertilization and seed purification costs by 50% while maintaining good productivity,” he says. “Thanks to its great biodiversity, there is a lot of potential in Brazil’s equipment and working methods, which we do not yet know.”

Irreversible evolutionA

For Jose Carlos Polidoro, a researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization (EMBRAPA), the country will continue to use NPK fertilizers, but will have to bet on these natural products.

“Organic and organic mineral fertilizers, made from residues of mining activity, organic residues from agro-industries and sewage sludge currently represent 5% of Brazil’s fertilizer market, but they can help reduce our imports by 20%,” he said.

Reginaldo Minar, deputy technical director of the National Agricultural Confederation, also encouraged soybean growers to use Rhizobacteria “which removes nitrogen from the air to restore the plant”, thus reducing the use of industrial nitrogenous fertilizers.

But the growing acceptance of these different products is not without hindrance, Carlos Pital, a technical consultant in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul and a member of GAAS.

“Farmers have little technical support and it is difficult to get loans for further investment. But the evolution of our production system is irreversible.”

Leave a Comment