In the last two decades, grain production has been largely dominated by companies that own seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. The growth of corn and soy cultivation was accompanied by dependence on at least one of these companies, which in the end appropriated a significant part of the farmers’ income, whether small, medium or large.
The practice of grain-producing agriculture is so connected to business that even farmers cannot see themselves outside of it. Totally involved in this dependency relationship, from soil preparation, seeds and fertilizers are already “prescribed” by technicians and agronomists who have been trained, most of the time, as good sellers of products. This model of agriculture, now part of the so-called “agribusiness”, transformed the social relationship of the farmer into just a place where a recipe for the application of inputs follows, where companies already know in advance the rate of profit they will have in that relationship. All of this, regardless of the consequences for the soil biome and nature as a whole.
Currently, there is an ongoing movement to transform Brazilian agriculture. It is the biological transformation. We could even call it a new revolution in Brazilian agriculture.
This movement occurs due to the confluence of several factors, namely: a) the serious environmental crisis with the consequences of the greenhouse effect becoming more and more frequent and the international pressure for environmental adaptations in all areas; b) the consumer market’s growing demand for healthy foods free of pesticides; c) the evolution of official science now proving and accepting the teachings of the late Dr. Ana Maria Primavesi and the guidelines of the agroecological movement; e) the environmental and agronomic failure of the green revolution package, with the worsening of pests and diseases and the biological degradation of soils; f) the emergence of new biological technologies directly owned by farmers.
It is in this context that all the large transactional companies in the agrochemical sector already offer biological inputs in their list of products and are already reorienting their production line towards this new market that is growing by leaps and bounds in Brazil. Here is the great change that is already taking place and that should be accelerated in the coming years.
It is in this scenario that discussions about what we are going to call “biological inputs” proliferate. This subject is quite complex, but it is widely known that plants become productive and healthy as long as the environment (soil, water, sun and air) where they are inserted is healthy.
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If we have a biologically diverse soil (bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, micro arthropods, among others) the solubilization process of nutrients present in the soil – until then unavailable – becomes available. Thus, plants begin to absorb as needed and become productive, capable of producing abundant food for humanity in a healthy way.
So, micro-organisms are the main actors in the soil-plant relationship that for thousands of years have kept and still keep agriculture active, despite all the aggression with fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and soluble fertilizers, often chlorine-based sterilizes the soil and compromises its health.
Scientific research has evolved a lot in recent years and has realized that the soil is rich in life. It is suggested that in one gram of soil we have more micro-organisms than inhabitants on planet Earth.
Generally, these microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and others) that are present and multiply freely in nature can be collected, isolated, multiplied and returned to the soil, enhancing biological activity.
We can do this process of multiplication of microorganisms in two ways, basically. The multiplication of these isolated microorganisms (only one at a time) or in community, where a group of microorganisms multiplies together. A good example of community micro-organism multiplication is the “Soil Food Web” method or the Soil Food Network.
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To exemplify the issue, let’s go to practice. To manufacture a biological input on the property/batch itself, we can purchase 500 ml of an inoculum (the “seed” of the microorganism) of Bacillus thurigiensis bacteria, for example, and place it in a 100-liter drum of water with 500 grams of a culture medium (food) and a 0.5 hp pump that allows the circulation and aeration of the water for 48 hours, we can end up with 100 liters of a biological insecticide capable of controlling the population of caterpillars in 50 hectares of soy or corn at a cost of two to five reais per liter (depending on the origin of the inputs to be used). Under the same conditions described above, we can use 500 grams of the bacteria Azospirillum brasiliense as inoculum and at the end of 24 hours we will produce enough material to contribute considerably to the nitrogen demand for 20 hectares of wheat, 5 hectares of tomatoes, 25 hectares of corn.
The multiplication of microorganisms can occur on a small, medium and large scale according to need. Lately, large companies are dedicating enormous efforts to establish themselves in this market, which can be gigantic. At the same time, a new economic sector has been formed around the production of equipment and inputs for the multiplication of microorganisms in rural properties, the so-called “on farm” multiplication.
In Brazil we still do not have a clear regulation on this issue. Two bills are under debate in the National Congress. One in the Chamber of Deputies, another in the Federal Senate. In this regulatory debate, excessive regulation centrally favors large transnational companies, as farmers (mainly small and medium-sized ones) will have more difficulties in carrying out the multiplication on rural properties and the path will be free only for commercial bioinputs.
The big question to be asked will be who will be able to carry out the multiplication of microorganisms for use in agriculture. Will they be large national or transactional companies? Will they be farmers who will multiply on their small, medium and large properties? Will they be small farmers who, in addition to multiplying on the property, will be able to carry it out through groups of OCS, associations and cooperatives? Or will they all be able to coexist within a regulatory framework that is balanced and adapted to different realities and economic conditions?
Just to exemplify the debate, a small farmer, when multiplying a bacterium for his use, evaluates its efficiency by the practical result when carrying out the control and application in the field. This “on farm” multiplication unit, due to the small volume to be multiplied, requires a much simpler structure, as long as the minimum criteria of hygiene and cleanliness of the environment are observed. The generation of waste will be practically nil, being a very low risk activity.
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Finally, what is at stake is whether these “on farm” bioinput production technologies can continue to be used by farmers, and even more democratized with public promotion policies, or whether the large transnationals will appropriate these technologies to boost their their profits in this new model of agriculture that is being designed.
At stake is whether farmers will be able to gain greater autonomy in the production process or whether they will be condemned to simply replacing the technological package from chemical to biological. At the present time, it is necessary and urgent to discuss this issue.
José Luis Rodrigues (Patrola) is an Organic Farmer Settled in Viamao/RS, Specialization in Rural Education by UFSM
Mauricio Piccin is a farmer in General Camara/RS, a veterinarian from UFSM
* This is an opinion article. The author’s view does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper Brazil in fact.
Edition: Glauco Faria
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