Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest Systems - ICLFS


Introduction


Brazilian agribusiness has experienced significant growth and transformation over the last three decades. Part of this success is due to the incorporation of land in the Cerrado region into the national productive process, especially as of the 1970s. In 1970, 27 million tons of rice, bean, corn and soybean were produced. In 2011-2012, these crops yielded 160 million tons, a 583% increase (CONAB, 2013). However, a great challenge for agriculture will be overcoming problems resulting from decades of monoculture practices and great environmental pressure, such as: soil erosion and loss of fertility, watercourse silting, soil and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Beef cattle husbandry, which is often considered a low productivity activity, in the past depended on the continuous expansion of pasture areas to be economically feasible. However, in the last decades there have been significant changes in its production model with the prioritization of capital-intensive technologies. This has resulted in significant productivity gains and, consequently, more areas available for other agribusiness segments.

Between 1950 and 1985, the expansion of cultivated pasture areas accounted for 71% of the increase in beef production and 21% of the increase in productivity. However, between 1985 and 2006 there was a reduction in pasture areas, and animal productivity accounted for 66% of the increase of 4,664 tons of carcass-weight equivalent. When these gains were computed for the 1950-2006 period, the "land-saving effect" was estimated at 525 million hectares. This means that achieving the same production without these gains would demand the use of 525 million additional hectares of land. However, the loss in pasture productivity due to inadequate management and lack of nutrient replacement has compromised animal productivity, contributing to the clearing of new areas of native vegetation.

Estimates have indicated that, in 2030, the world consumption of timber as round wood logs will be around 2.4 billion m3, an increase of approximately 45% from consumption in 2005 (FAO, 2009). According to these studies, the basic question is not whether there will be timber in the future, but where it will come from, who will produce it and how it will be produced.

The Brazilian domestic market consumes 13.5 million m3 of sawn wood from natural forests (UNECE & FAO, 2009) and 65 million m3 from planted forests (ABRAF, 2009). The demand for timber in the domestic market is estimated to reach 300 million m3 (AMS, 2005), which will mean planting 2 to 2.5 more trees than today. Planted forests for commercial purposes account for 1.33% of the total forest cover, that is, 6.97 million hectares (0.82% of the country's land area) (ABRAF, 2011).

In a future scenario, the growing demand for food, bioenergy and forest products, in the face of the need to reduce deforestation and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, requires solutions that conciliate socioeconomic development and sustainability of natural resources. Intensified land use in agricultural areas and increased efficiency of productive systems can contribute to harmonize these interests.

In this sense, Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest (ICLF) systems are a feasible production alternative to recover altered or degraded areas. The integration of trees with pastures and/or crops is described as a system integrating the crop, livestock and forest components, in rotation, combination or succession, in the same area. It allows the soil to be economically exploited all year round, favoring an increase in grain, meat and milk yield at lower costs due to the synergy created between crop and pasture.

The overarching objective of ICLF is to change the system of land use, basing it on the integration of productive system components to achieve increasingly higher levels of product quality, environmental quality and competitiveness. ICLF is a strategy to maximize desirable environmental effects, combining productivity growth with natural resources conservation in the process of intensifying the use of deforested areas in Brazil.

Four distinct production systems can be thus classified:

  1. Integrated Crop-Livestock or Agro-Pasture System: a production system integrating the crop and livestock components in rotation, combination or succession in the same area and in a same crop year or for multiple years.
  2. Integrated Livestock-Forest, Forest-Pasture, or Silvopasture System: a production system integrating the livestock and forest components in combination.
  3. Integrated Crop-Forest or Agroforestry System: a production system integrating the crop and forest components through the combination of tree species and agricultural(annual or perennial)crops.
  4. Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest System: a production system integrating the crop, livestock and forest components in rotation, combination or succession in the same area. The "crop" component may or may not be restricted to the initial forest introduction phase.

The abovementioned systems include the agroforestry systems (AFS), which are classified as agroforestry, forest-pasture and agroforestry-pasture. ICLF is therefore the strategy with the broadest scope.

ICLFS seek to integrate systems producing food, fiber, energy and timber and non-timber forest products in the same area, in combination, succession or rotation, to optimize the biological cycles of plants and animals, inputs and their respective residues. It additionally aims at maintaining and reconstituting the forest cover, recovering degraded areas, adopting sound agricultural practices and increasing machinery, equipment and work force efficiency, thus contributing to create employment and income, improve social conditions in rural communities and reduce environmental damage.

Besides these points, other attributes resulting from its implementation relate to contributing to the environmental regularization of rural properties, maintenance and/or recovery of Permanent Preservation Areas and allocated Legal Reserve areas and introduction of technologies to reduce environmental damage.

Historical Background

Although Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest systems are considered innovative systems, in Europe, many agricultural methods associating annual and permanent crops or fruit and timber trees have been known to exist since the Middle Ages. Systems integrating fruit trees with livestock date from the 16th century, and one of the causes of their disappearance seems to have been the introduction of mechanized and intensified agricultural systems, besides the difficulty of manually harvesting fruit and management issues.

The system of combining crops was copied from nature by indigenous populations and later transferred to settlers. In tropical regions, the most noticeable example comes from small farmers practicing varied systems of combined crops.

Historically, European immigrants introduced in Brazil the practice of associating crops, livestock and forests, which, from the beginning, was adapted to tropical and subtropical conditions. In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, for example, flooded rice paddies were combined with pastures. However, over the years the adoption of integrated systems has been rare in Brazil, despite recent scientific progress.

A few efforts to revert the process of soil degradation were made in the late 1970s, with the adoption of integrated terraced systems in drainage micro-basins and the development of No-till farming system (NTFS) technologies, especially in the South region. Low sustainability conditions can be remediated with technologies such as NTF and ICLF systems. The full use of DD in diverse edaphoclimatic conditions is highly dependent on crop rotation, one of the practices recommended for the production and maintenance of cover crops.

Soil degradation prompted the scientific community to seek for sustainable productive systems in order to harmonize the increase of animal and crop production with conservation of natural resources.

In the 1980s and 1990s, technologies to recover degraded pastures were developed and improved. One example is the "Great Barrier System" developed by Embrapa, consisting of a set of technologies and practices to recover degraded or unproductive areas based on a rice-pasture combination. Other examples are forest-pasture systems and integrated crop-livestock (ICL) systems.

In the late 1990s, proposals emerged involving the use of ICL systems with crop-pasture rotation in the following sequence: grain and forage in the post-harvest season and the ensuing build-up of residues for the successive direct drilling of grain. Among the cover crops used, the forage Brachiaria spp. has stood out for its easy cultivation and expressive yield (+ 20t/ha of green mass). For this reason, producers started using this forage as animal fodder during the post-harvest period.

Current situation

The system has been adopted throughout the country, particularly in the Center-West and South regions. Approximately 1.6 to 2 million hectares currently use different formats of the ICLF strategy and it is estimated that they will be adopted in further 20 million hectares over the following 20 years.

Role of actors/participants/institutions

Most of the technologies and knowledge necessary to implement various ICLF systems have been developed by Embrapa and companies, universities and state research institutions composing the National Agricultural Research System (SNPA).

The process of transferring knowledge and technologies in complex and interactive productive systems, which involves multiple medium- and long-term variables, such as Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest systems, requires a comprehensive approach attentive to local particularities. Due to the involvement of actors from the productive, technical and research sectors, the methodologies for transferring knowledge and technologies must be guided by the involvement and participation of these actors. Since much of the knowledge is generated by the experience of the actual producers, integration between the actors allows the production of adequate innovations, thus shortening adoption time.

The integration between actors must allow for the continuous qualification of facilitators and assessment of the processes and activities employed in transferring knowledge and technology, also based on demands and considerations raised among the actors. These are aspects that go beyond the agronomical, forestry and zootechnical spheres and must also be considered when adapting and applying this type of system in different production units and regions in Brazil.

Within the diversity of variables present in these systems, the process of transferring knowledge and technologies is paramount. The first step it to reinforce ATER through partnerships between the National Agricultural Research System (SNPA) and the private sector. This involves direct contact with public and private ATER technicians through the implementation and supervision of technological reference units among rural producers.

Embrapa has coordinated a national project named "Technology Transfer for Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest Systems (ICLF TT)" divided into eight regions with their respective coordinators. This project has benefitted from a public-private partnership with the agribusiness corporation Bunge, which contributed resources to significantly expand the process of transferring this technology and increase its visibility among society.

In order to advance the process of transferring knowledge and technology of ICLF systems, Embrapa has organized a new networking project. This national network involves 32 Embrapa units and a public-private partnership called ICLFS Fostering Network. Currently, the network is composed of four partners: Cocamar, John Deere, Parker and Sygenta.

Main issues

ICLF systems can significantly enhance socioeconomic and environmental sustainability in rural properties. From the private sector's point of view, the economic benefits would result in greater supply at a given market price with lower production costs. This would be possible due to more efficient use of fertilizers and lower need for agrochemicals, and the breakdown in the life cycle of pest, diseases and weeds. It is a feasible solution for the recovery of degraded areas.

To the positive effects on producers' income are added broader benefits to society in the form of a greater offer of food products, fiber and energy and contribution to consolidate a stabler macroeconomic environment, or decreased pressure on the physical resources of rural properties. This greater offer is possible without further deforestation, while low productivity areas suffering degradation or already degraded would be recovered by "more efficient" activities such as crops, timber and non-timber forests products or productive animal husbandry.

From the environmental point of view, cultivated pastures are the best alternative for the expansion of grain and biofuels. In other words, apart from the benefit of producing food products of high biological value (meat and milk), forage crops and their agroecosystems provide further environmental services, the most important of which are: conservation of hydric and edaphic (related to soil) resources; control of pests and diseases; carbon fixation; increase of soil organic matter; and reduction of greenhouse gas emission.

Given the growing worldwide demand for food, fiber and energy, the set of ICLF practices is a powerful development mechanism for regions with degraded areas and soils. It allows these areas to recover their productive potential and increases the efficiency in more technologically advanced regions by optimizing soil management methods such as direct drilling and crop rotation, bringing great advantages to both realities, discouraging deforestation and enhancing the value of production through good agricultural practices and certification.

Potential Technological and Ecological/Environmental Benefits of ICLFS

  • Improved physical, chemical and biological properties of soil thanks to increase of organic matter;
  • Reduction of productivity loss during short heatwaves when associated to soil fertility correction and no-till farming;
  • Lower incidence of diseases and weeds;
  • Increased animal welfare due to more thermal comfort;
  • Greater input efficiency and positive energy balance;
  • Possibility of applying systems in large, medium, or small rural properties.
  • Reduced pressure to clear and open new areas for agriculture;
  • Improved use of natural resources through complementarity and synergy between animal and plant components;
  • Reduced use of agrochemicals to control insect pests, diseases, and weeds;
  • Reduced erosion risk;
  • Improved water harvesting and quality;
  • GHG mitigation resulting from increased carbon sequestration capacity;
  • Lower emission of methane per kilo of meat yield;
  • Promotion of biodiversity and new niches and habitats for crop pollinizing agents and natural enemies of insect-pests and diseases;
  • Intensified nutrient cycle;
  • Increased soil bioremediation capacity;
  • Landscape recovery, allowing agritourism activities;
  • Enhanced public image of farmers, linked to environmental awareness.

Potential Economic and Social Benefits of ICLFS

  • Increased annual food production at lower costs;
  • Increased annual production of fibers, biofuel and biomass;
  • Increased competitiveness of animal product chains in national and international markets;
  • Increased milk yield and quality and reduced production seasonality;
  • Dynamization of various economic sectors, especially at regional levels;
  • New possibilities for land use and for engaging the qualifications and skills of different actors (sharecroppers and landowners);
  • Reduced risk due to improved production conditions and diversified commercial activities;
  • Greater social insertion and population retention in rural areas through employment and income;
  • Increased offer of safe food;
  • Encouragement for professional qualification;
  • Improved quality of life for farmers and their families;
  • Encouragement for civil society participation;
  • Improved image of Brazilian agricultural production and producers, conciliating production and environmental conservation;
  • Greater comparative advantage in environmental debates and negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • Increased income for rural ventures.

Examples

There are various ICLF systems in Brazil adapted to the profiles and objectives of rural properties. These differences also relate to the regional characteristics of biomes and farms, such as: climate and soil conditions, infrastructure, producers' experience and available technology.

ICLF Systems in the Amazon Region

The predominant ICLF systems in the Amazon Biome are agroforestry and forest-pasture. Silvopastoral systems have been successfully adopted in various properties, with the use of the following tree species: paricá, eucalyptus, teak, and African mahogany. Among forages, the most common ones are: marandu grass, kikuyu, Panicum sp., coastal sand paspalum, jaragua grass, Pueraria, Centrosema macrocarpum e Capsicum pubescens. The animal component is composed of cattle and buffalo for meat and milk production, besides the production of hair sheep.

The crop-forest system is normally introduced in degraded areas, with the cultivation of grain crops for two or three harvests, mainly rice, corn, soybeans and cowpeas. These crops are planted between rows of tree species adapted to local edaphoclimatic conditions. These species are planted together with the first harvest. This requires recovering the planted area and correcting and fertilizing the soil. With better soil fertility conditions, from the third harvest on the grain crops are combined with forages (with different species from the previous ones) to form pastures and introduce animals, establishing the dynamics of sequential agroforestry-pasture systems.

Most of the forest-pasture experiments were carried out by forestry companies and livestock production farms, with the tree species planted preferentially in degraded pasture areas. Reasons to invest in planting trees include mandatory reforestation, production diversity and maintenance of land ownership.

The main reason to adopt the forest-pasture approach is cutting clearing costs. The strategy for the region is to generate technologies geared towards the development of sustainable livestock systems in altered areas of the Amazon region, and share research and technology transfer results adapted to the condition of each state and applicable to other productive systems.

ICLFS allow the incorporation of technologies such as the "Bragantino System", which consists of the continuous cultivation of different crops in rotation and combination (intercropping), using No-till Farming (NTF), to increase crop productivity, the availability of labor force all year round, and the income and quality of life of rural producers.

ICLF Systems in the Caatinga region

The most used and applicable ICLF system in the region of the Caatinga Biome is the agroforestry-pasture one. It is recommended to offset the pressure of food production for the human population and herds. This system combines perennial wood species with crops and pastures. The technology aims to ensure production stability and diversity, raise productivity, improve soil fertility and increase the offer of quality forage. The use of tree species ensures nutrient circulation and a significant increase of soil organic matter, which are essential conditions for continuous cultivation in tropical soils.

The forest-pasture system has also been adopted, in two modalities:

  1. Introduction of animals in permanent commercial forests;
  2. Introduction or maintenance of the forest component (native or exotic) in cultivated pastures, adapted to the semiarid climate.

The adoption of cultivated pastures adapted to the semiarid climate (buffel grass and brachiaria) has increased over the years. However, most livestock breeders adopt the extractive practices; the major part of the pasture areas is not adequately managed, nor is soil fertility corrected and preserved. Currently, most of the areas are in a state of degradation.

ICLF Systems in the Cerrado region

In the Cerrado Biome, the crop species used in the CFLI system are cotton, soybean, corn, sorghum, beans, rice and sunflower. The main combinations are corn + grass/forage (80%), sorghum (grain or silage) + grass/forage (15%), and other combinations (millet, forage sorghum, guando) (5%). The main forage species are of the genus Brachiaria (80%), species of Panicum (10%) and others (10%). The major tree species are eucalyptus (80%), teak, Australian cedar and mahogany (15%) and others (5). Finally, the animal species/breeds are beef cattle (50%), dairy cattle (30%) and sheep and goats (20%).

Currently, complete ICLF systems, that is, those integrating crops, livestock and forests, are still few. Some sequence options for introduction in degraded pastures are soybean or rice in the first year, corn or sorghum in the second year, pasture from the third to fifth year and then back to soybean; or else corn or sorghum or millet in the first year and pasture from the third to fifth year.

When the soil is already fit for cultivation: rotation – corn or silage sorghum in summer + pasture grass/forage in the postharvest season and cotton; soybean, corn or silage sorghum in the summer + pasture grass/forage in the postharvest season. The pasture, besides the first growing season, can remain another two or three years and return to the crops.

The sequence options for the small summer harvest include: soybean, corn or sorghum + pasture grass/forage in the summer harvest, returning to soybean or corn in the summer. There can be a rotation of soybean/corn + grass/forage (summer) / forage, or a succession of corn or silage sorghum in the summer + pasture grass/forage in the postharvest season.

ICLF Systems in the Atlantic Forest

The predominant ICLF systems in the South region Atlantic Forest areas are based on a succession of crops in summer (soybean, corn and bean) and cultivated pastures in winter, especially with temperate climate species (lopsided oat and annual rye-grass).

NIn the Southeast region predominate rotations of forages with annual crops (soy, corn, cotton) for residue production, for direct drilling or forage production for animal fodder in the postharvest season. The region's forest-pasture systems mainly feature combinations of pasture and eucalyptus for timber or pasture with nitrogen-fixing woody species, for maintenance and/or recovery of soil fertility.

In the Northeast region, the predominant ICLF systems are forest-pasture, using mainly the leguminous tree Gliricidia sepium as the forest component in the various forms of association, and Brachiaria as the herbaceous component. The process starts with a combination of the tree species with corn and/or bean crops, repeated for 2 to 5 years, depending on the system, followed by the pasture/tree combination. Some areas adopt a combination of soybean and eucalyptus followed by a forest-pasture system after the 3rd year. In sugarcane areas, annual leguminous plants (cowpea) are cultivated during the sugarcane postharvest period.

ICLF Systems in the Pampa region

There are many alternatives of ICLF systems in the Pampa Biome. In the southern half of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the most common system is agro-pasture with irrigated rice crops and beef and dairy cattle breeding. The main perennial pastures include annual rye-grass, white clover, oat, Festuca, bird's-foot trefoil e bahiagrass, or restoration with native species. The cultivation of citrus fruit/peach, grain or forage is a form of agroforestry or forest-pasture integration found in the region.

The northern half of the state features a different version of the agro-pasture system with soybean-corn (summer)/wheat-pasture (winter) and beef and dairy cattle. In the plateau zone, the predominant integration system is agroforestry, with the cultivation of yerba mate, soybean-corn, annual winter pasture (lopsided oat, ryegrass, tare grass, millet, etc.).

The agroforestry-pasture integration includes crops planted between rows of tree species, with combination/succession of crops with pasture and forest. This system is used in various regions of the Pampa Biome, especially in crop and savannah areas suffering from degradation or invaded by South African lovegrass.

The predominant forest components are exotic tree species of pine, eucalyptus and black acacia. Therefore, the introduction of high value forager species is timely.

ICLF systems in the Pantanal region

The traditional beef cattle breeding system involves extensive cattle breeding in large areas, in a continuous pasture system with average density of 3.6 hectare per animal. One of the main activities in the region is calf production. These systems can be considered extensive forest-pasture systems, adapted to the specific environmental characteristics in which they developed, respecting their time and space dynamics.

With regard to the natural forest-pasture system (NFPS), producers in the region use different species that compose the landscape, such as macaw palm, craboo, acuri palm, silver trumpet tree and urunday. Some of them adopt cattle exclusion management practices in certain phytophysiognomies to regenerate species of interest, such as urunday.

Altered or intensified forest-pasture systems are also common in the Pantanal region, especially those using savannah pastures, replacing native herbaceous species with exotic forages but preserving the tree species in respect of natural landscapes. There are yet few experiments in planted tree species associated with native and exotic pastures. An example is the growth of balsam in pastures with Brachiaria brizantha in areas previously occupied by savannah.

Although the use of deforestation to introduce exotic grasses still persists in the Pantanal region, most farmers choose to replace native pastures hardly used by cattle (called "macegas") with cultivated pastures. A common practice in savannah pastures is to preserve the native shrub and tree species, preserving natural landscapes.

Therefore, the adoption and maintenance of forest-pasture systems (FPS) combining the management of shrub and herbaceous species, in mosaic distribution, in different phytophysiognomies, respecting natural landscapes is one of the main strategies to maintain and conserve biodiversity and increase productivity in the region.

Definitions, commitments and decisions

Owing to its potential benefits, ICLF has been included among the technologies composing the voluntary commitments made by Brazil at COP-15 which led to the creation of the Sector Plan to Consolidate a Low-Carbon Emission Economy in Agriculture, known as ABC Plan, coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA). With great carbon sequestration potential due to the high build-up of forage and forest biomass and the build-up of soil organic matter, ICLF helps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. The goal is to expand the use of the system to 4 million hectares by 2020, preventing the release of 18 to 22 million ton of CO2 equivalent.

On April 29, 2013, Law 12,805/13 was ratified instituting the National Integration Crop-Livestock-Forest Policy. The legislation's objectives include: to sustainably improve productivity, product quality and agricultural income by adopting integrated systems to exploit crops, livestock and forests in deforested areas as an alternative to traditional monoculture; to mitigate deforestation and contribute to the conservation of Permanent Preservation Areas and allocated Legal Reserves; to foster new land use models combining sustainable agribusiness and environmental conservation.

According to the proposal, ICLF establishes new responsibilities for the state such as defining regional and national action plans to expand and improve ICLF systems, involving local communities, and encouraging the adoption of certification for agricultural, animal and forest products from integrated systems.

Sensitive and critical aspects, and alternatives

In the 2000s, research on ICLFS drew the attention of various institutions. Most studies focused on combining forages and grain crops and improving chemical, physical and biological soil properties. A few studies on the impact of forages on pest and disease cycles have also been carried out, but still lack more consistent data for different regional contexts. However, there is poor or no research on the efficient use of agricultural pesticides, control of pests and diseases, occurrence and cycle of endo and ectoparasites in animals, and management of pastures and main tree species in these systems. Another topic deserving attention is the effect of pastures on the nutrient cycle in ICLF systems. Studies on the introduction of the tree component in this system must be encouraged and expanded. In order to maximize component (agricultural, animal and forest) productivity, the research must focus on the diversification of shade tolerant tree and forage species, tree layout and density, nutrient cycling and animal-friendly environments. It is equally important to evaluate the effect of thermal comfort provided by tree shading on animal yield.

A further significant gap, which limits the expansion of the ICLF system, is the relative lack of comprehensive economic assessment studies. Most studies related to this theme focus on specific economic and financial assessments, overlooking important aspects that influence the decisions of producers, such as: producers' socioeconomic situation; investment needs; production scale implications for investment, loan, cost, income and profitability patterns; analysis of barriers to system implementation; assessment of production risk mitigation; and whether anticipated potential socioeconomic benefits actually apply to the economic activity and can be exploited. These points lack deeper analysis and are questions which, up to date, have not been answered by research related to the economic aspects of the ICLF systems.

In the last two decades, Embrapa and its partners have contributed significantly to advance knowledge and technology on the different modalities of ICLF systems. However, Brazil's edaphoclimatic and sociocultural diversity requires greater research, development, innovation and technology transference actions to assess the bioeconomic feasibility of the different possibilities of integrating the agricultural, animal and forest components in different regional contexts.

Apart from the extremely relevant research work, an expressive area (over 500 hectares) for long-term experiments and technological reference units constitutes the physical base for activities related to technology transference in ICL and ICLF and the ABC Plan regularly carried out in the physical areas of various Embrapa units. In addition, several units are managed in partnership with producers from all over the country. However, the knowledge base to support the understanding and management of these systems is still scarce.

The role of Embrapa

The institutions linked the National Agricultural Research System, coordinated by Embrapa, have for many years been researching and recommending systems that integrate agriculture and livestock breeding. In addition, owing to the importance of this topic, Embrapa has created the Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest Systems portfolio.

Actions

In 2013, Embrapa structured the ICLF Portfolio with the aim of outlining and supporting the organization, creation, integration and dissemination of ICLF knowledge and technology to foster the formulation of Research, Development, Innovation and Technology Transfer strategies focused on the sustainability and competitiveness of the complex systems.

The specific objectives of the ICLF Portfolio are: identify factors and processes limiting ICFLS research in order to foster projects capable of generating new knowledge and/or technologies; identify alternatives for allocating agricultural, animal and forestry components in different regional contexts, aiming to maximize bioeconomic results and environmental benefits; adapt or develop solid valuation methods to assess the sustainability of ICLF systems, considering different time horizons; generate economic data to better understand the system; and expand and intensify the transference of knowledge and validated technology and qualification associated with the network of CPLI facilitators in different regions.

Guidelines

ICLF systems must be appropriately planned according to the different socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the production units. They can be adopted by any rural producer (animal breeder and/or agriculturist), regardless of property size. Obviously, the nature and intensity of the set of technologies composing ICLFS will depend, among others factors, of the individual objectives and available infrastructure of each producer.

Animal breeders, for example, may resort to intercropping or crop rotation of grain crops and forages to introduce new pastures or recover degraded ones. They can also implement a forest-pasture system to exploit timber and non-timber forestry products, besides animal products.

Agriculturists, on the other hand, can use combination or rotation of grain crops and forages to produce great quantities of good quality cover residue for no-till farming in the following harvest. Finally, producers desiring to adopt integrated activities can use ICLFS to implement a sustainable agricultural system, using principles of crop rotation and combination of grain crops, forages and tree species in order to produce, in the same property, grain, meat or milk ,and timber and non-timber forestry products all year round.

A sustainable ICLF system must be:

  • Technically efficient, taking into consideration the property's environment and using adequate management and inputs, according to official recommendations;
  • Economically feasible by improved the use of land and resources, diversification, greater income stability and fewer risks;
  • Socially acceptable by being applicable to any property size, increasing and better distributing income in rural regions and increasing the competitive edge of Brazilian agribusiness;
  • Environmentally appropriate for supporting the use of preservation practices and better land use.

The adoption of ICLFS (agroforestry-pasture) can be facilitated by an adequate distribution and spacing of trees in the area, resulting in soil and water conservation, better machinery transit and observation of animal behavior. To this end, the simplest and most effective spatial arrangement is alley cropping, in which trees are planted in rows (single or multiple lines) with ample spacing between them.

Producers desiring to focus on timber production can use narrower rows and more lines per row (more trees per hectare), while those preferring agricultural and/or livestock activities can use larger rows (fewer lines per row).

These systems do not exhaust the different alternatives and solutions for problems inside production units. The anticipated results relate to the rural entrepreneur's immediate expectations and are geared towards the development of sustainable agriculture.

Perspectives

The introduction of the forest component in agro-pasture activity will certainly result in complementary benefits.  While agriculture and livestock breeding offset the negative cash flow during the growing period of the forest investment, this is turn will incorporate into the system important environmental benefits in terms of environmental sustainability (animal comfort, carbon fixation, etc.), economic sustainability (conservation) and social sustainability, since the input of resources distributed over time (lopping and harvesting) allows producers and their successors to encourage the permanence of youngsters in rural areasl.

The introduction of the forest component in agro-pasture activity will certainly result in complementary benefits.  While agriculture and livestock breeding offset the negative cashflow during the growing period of the forest investment, this is turn will incorporate into the system important environmental benefits in terms of environmental sustainability (animal comfort, carbon fixation, etc.), economic sustainability (conservation) and social sustainability, since the input of resources distributed over time (lopping and harvesting) allows producers and their successors to encourage the permanence of youngsters in rural areas.

The Embrapa teams and partners working with ICLF have already created 192 Technological Reference Units (URT) throughout the whole country which engage the participation of producers and are at the same time observatories and showcases of the system. ICLF is expected to be introduced in a growing number of rural properties in the near future, combining increased production with conservation of natural resources, a key feature in the development of a sustainable economy in the 21st century.

This will require the implementation of public policies to foster production, such as: greater offer of credit, lower interest rates, longer payment periods, guaranteed minimum prices, lower taxation of products and inputs, widespread and efficient agricultural insurance, as well as compensation for environmental services.


Bibliography

BALBINO, L. C. et al. Evolução tecnológica e arranjos produtivos de sistemas
de Integração lavoura‑pecuária‑floresta no Brasil. Pesquisa Agropecuária Brasileira. Brasília, v.46, n.10, p.i-xii. 2011.
BALBINO, L.C.; BARCELLOS, A. O. de; STONE, L. F. Marco referencial: integração lavoura-pecuária-floresta (ILPF). Brasília, DF: Embrapa, 2011. 130p.