GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS—THE MIRACLE OF THE CERRADO. The Economist had an article (August 28) about the extraordinary recent increase in Brazil’s agricultural production. It’s entitled “The Miracle of the Cerrado.” Between 1996 and 2006 the total value of the country’s crops rose by 365 % (!) from $23 billion to $108 billion. The cerrado is the Brazilian savannah, and it is there that the miracle has taken place. The Economist gives credit for the miracle to research done since 1973 by a government company, Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation). The Economist identifies four different innovations. First, because the cerrado soil was highly acidic, enormous amounts of lime (2 tons per acre) were applied to the soil. Second, Embrapa by crossbreeding an African grass, came up with a new grass which produces many times the feed that native cerrado grasses gave. Third, again by crossbreeding, Embrapa created soybeans which grow successfully in a tropical climate. Fourth, Embrapa pioneered ways of farming without plowing and the use of strips of trees between fields where cattle can forage. All of these changes seem to be the result of traditional kinds of agricultural research, but to give an idea of the accomplishment, the Economist quotes Norman Borlaug that: “nobody thought these soils were ever going to be productive.”

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