How is burning sugarcane related to global warming and how does it impact your life?

Over the years, there have been several changes in our way of life and the way we relate to natural resources. Among them, we can mention the changes and different ways of managing the soil in agriculture.

Its constant disturbance and alteration of physical, chemical and biological properties, caused a reduction in the potential for carbon sequestration in the soil, contributing to the increasing emission of harmful gases, such as carbon dioxide.

Burning the agroecosystems is an example of a practice considered harmful to the soils, and consequently, to the environment.

In a study carried out in the city of Barrinha/SP, the physical, chemical and microbiological attributes of a soil in two sugarcane harvesting systems were analyzed: using burning (about eight years of practice) and without burning.

A 37% higher carbon dioxide emission was found in the burning areas. In addition, the same study found that carbon was decomposed more quickly in the sugarcane burnt area.

Another finding was that the half-life of carbon was longer in the unburned soil, with permanency period 52% longer.

It is concluded that the burned sugarcane system potentially contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, and that this practice is harmful to the environment and people’s health.

On the other hand, some agricultural practices are considered sustainable because they contribute to the reversal of soil degradation processes, aiding its aggregation and carbon fixation.

They are: large-scale composting, no-till, crop rotation and succession, intercropping with cover crops, use of soil remineralizers, etc.

Just as it is important to implement these practices to increase soil carbon sequestration rates, studies are also needed to prevent this carbon from being lost.

For this, a management system that has been tested is direct planting combined with the use of organic fertilizers, aiming at increasing the stocks of essential elements such as nitrogen and carbon.

Apparently, this is a system capable of mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases, improving the living conditions for soil microorganisms and, consequently, generating healthier plant development.

Thus, agroecological practices, which respect the soil and treat it as a living and functional being, contribute to carbon sequestration, which will become more valued as the producer becomes aware of its numerous environmental and economic benefits.

The carbon market is barely known in Brazil, but it has great growth potential. The producer who proves that he sequesters carbon on his property can convert a ton of this gas into a credit, and this credit, into cash.

Faced with this challenge, our goal is to help rural producers to produce more while regenerating their soil, which will be largely responsible for combating global warming and ensuring the lives of future generations.


MOITINHO, M. R. et al. Effects of burned and unburned sugarcane harvesting systems on soil CO2 emission and soil physical, chemical, and microbiological attributes. CATENA, v. 196, p. 104903, 2021.

CAVALCANTE, J. S. et al. Long‐term surface application of dairy liquid manure to soil under no‐till improves carbon and nitrogen stocks. European Journal of Soil Science, v. 71, n. 6, p. 1132-1143, 2020.

Author: Gabriella Brandão trainee at IBA – Brazilian Institute of Agroecology

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