Soil Fertility is Gaia’s* wombs

For more than forty years I have visited crops in Brazil. First, he was an Agronomy student, a few years as a professional in the trade of inputs, eleven years as a university professor, eight years as a vegetable producer, ten years as an independent consultant.

Since then, I live daily and intimately with Brazilian agribusiness, mainly in the states RS, PR, SP, MS, MT, GO and MG. Together, they represent almost 85% of the national agricultural production.

The GDP of Brazilian agribusiness is already greater than 2 trillion reais / year, about 27% of the country’s total GDP. The generation of all this immense financial resource, depends on a small layer, a few centimeters thick, called soil fertile.

Fertility is the ability of a living being to generate more life. The fertile woman generates children from a fertilized egg.

The fertile soil generates plants from seeds. So, the belly of Gaia, our Mother Earth, is those few centimeters of fertile land, which are above the inert rock. In fact, it is the small part of the rock, which came to life after its weathering and microbial colonization.

With the germination of seeds and the establishment of vegetation, insects, earthworms and all beings that make up this meta-organism called Soil appear. The range of fertile soil varies from a few centimeters to just over a meter in depth.

Life on our planet depends, among other factors, on complex multispecific systems. When the degree of complexity decreases, due to the decrease in biodiversity, the system becomes fragile and the balance can easily be disrupted.

From there, the system quickly moves towards collapse, unless we are able, with intelligent anthropic actions, to reverse the process.

In the case of very large systems, such as that of the Amazon or the Planet itself, human actions are only able to prevent collapse if they are taken in time.

From a certain point, as far as is known, it is no longer possible to avoid it. Smaller systems, such as a farm, for example, are subject to human recovery, even if they are in an advanced stage of degradation.

In fact, we can consider each agricultural property as being a small piece of the “belly of Gaia”, the place where life is born, here on Earth. Using the science called Agroecology (without any ideological bias), it is perfectly possible to reverse the processes of soil degradation on a farm.

The intelligent application of the concepts of this science, which I like to call “the true Agronomy”, is capable of regenerating each one of these pieces of Gaia’s belly, which we call farms, farms or agricultural properties.

We know that, at the same time, there is a major degradation occurring on the Planet, caused, among other things, by the high emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and by pollution and predatory fishing in the oceans.

But the good news is that, by focusing on regenerating the soils on each farm, on each site, we will also resolve the issue of global warming (see www.4p1000.org).

Of course, we need parallel actions, outside the scope of Agronomy, such as the ban on the use of fossil fuels, predatory fishing and deforestation, among others.

These prohibitions depend on political actions. And political actions depend on the pressure exerted by society, to happen.

In the case of land regeneration of agricultural properties, we need rural producers to adopt truly sustainable production models.

And this adoption basically depends on the economic results that the producers will perceive, as soon as they adopt the new model. Agronomy must become an integrative science, if it is to lead this transition process. It must entice, attract, summon other sciences, to carry out this enormous project.

We can no longer fool ourselves, the word sustainability cannot be just a convenient adornment, a loose adjective, disconnected from the real situation of that system.

Nor can it be backed by just one brand, one input, or two or three isolated technologies. It can’t be just a facade. To be truly sustainable, agricultural production must be, first of all, agroecological. Because? Because Agroecology is the science that studies agroecosystems.

For agricultural production to be truly sustainable and profitable, we need to know and understand the functioning of the soil-plant system there, to know about the flow of mass and energy, the interactions between the living beings that inhabit that system and its functions.

Finally, to know how that living being works, which we call the soil, the belly of Gaia. We need to use our holistic view. Only then can we produce without leading the system to collapse, degrading the soil.

Today there is a consensus, on the part of scholars of agroecosystems, and even by a good part of producers, that the conventional model of agricultural production has already run out. Walk around the agricultural regions, talk to technicians and producers.

The scenes are repeated, from RS to MT: compacted, disaggregated and lifeless soils, with their impaired water absorption and retention capacity, high populations of nematodes destroying the roots of the crop, pests and diseases with increasing degrees of severity, despite pesticides.

Most producers are still using amounts of soluble fertilizers and pesticides that poison the soil, contaminating it, as well as the waters, food and people who eat it.

But there are also an increasing number of producers who are already recovering their soils, even before the damage comes. Wise attitude!

There is no more room for idiotic discussions, such as whether we should call pesticides pesticides or pesticides. There is no more space to allow ourselves to be led by vanity, or by pride, in saying that we harvest more bags or tons than our neighbors, at the cost of taking life from our soil.

We have to produce more and, at the same time, regenerate our soils. That is the challenge!

I have the impression that an increasing number of producers have already realized that we cannot submit to the pressure of immediate interests in the trade of inputs. No, we don’t have time for that anymore.

We now need partners, to apply all energies, all focus, to the regeneration of our soils. We need to regenerate Gaia’s fertility if we are to prosper forever, and not just for a few years.

If you are a rural producer, a technician, a student, in short, someone who works in agribusiness, know that we can be one of the last hopes for a good future on this Planet. Because if Gaia’s fertility dies, profits die, people die, life dies.

Make the decision, roll up your sleeves, start. It is something worthwhile. We came here to do that!

Gaia: in Greek mythology, she was the goddess Mother Earth. The name was given to the hypothesis, elaborated by James Lovelock, according to which our planet behaves as a unique living being.

Antonio Teixeira
Executive Director – IBA

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