Considered a major national agricultural frontier today, Matopiba is a region that comprises the Cerrado biome in the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, and Bahia, and accounts for a large part of the Brazilian production of grains and fiber.
The area, which until recently was not considered to have a strong tradition in agriculture, has drawn attention to its ever-increasing productivity. In the last four years, the state of Tocantins alone expanded its planted area at the rate of 25% per year, according to data by the National Supply Company (Conab).
The flat topography, the deep soils and the favorable climate for the cultivation of the main grain and fiber crops enabled the rapid growth of the region, which until the end of the 1980s relied heavily on extensive livestock farming.
However, the area is also considered complex, which makes the challenge of ensuring a modern and sustainable agriculture even more audacious. The area brings together 337 municipalities and represents a total of about 73 million hectares. Around 324 thousand agricultural establishments, 46 conservation units, 35 indigenous lands, and 781 agrarian reform settlements exist in the area, according to a survey done by Embrapa's Strategic Intelligence Group (GITE).
Such prosperity led to the formalization of the delimitation of the territory through the signing of a decree by President Dilma Rousseff, and the launching of the Regional Development Agency of Matopiba by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply in the four states that are part of the region.
Studies and research
GITE has created a Strategic Territorial Intelligence System for Matopiba in order to better understand and describe the region. The system brings together collections of numeric, cartographic, and iconographic data, integrated into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in spatial databases. The data were organized into five areas: natural frame, agrarian, agricultural, socio-economic and infrastructure.
Thus, it was possible to verify that the changes in occupation of the land, the expansion of the agricultural frontier, the growth of cities and the investment in infrastructure and logistics in Matopiba have characteristics and dynamics different from other regions of Brazil.
The Matopiba website is already operating and is a dynamic system, updateable and operational. The idea is that this information serves as a basis for creating another GeoWEB system, along with Incra, so that results are available 24 hours to any interested party.
Parallelly to the actions and projects of research, Embrapa is developing a strategic plan of action in Matopiba with the purpose of strengthening the technological and innovation development for the region. In this work, climate risk analysis, characterization of the socio-economic point of view, identification of problems and opportunities are provided for, among other actions.
But despite the territorial delimitation being recent, researchers have already studied the region for some time to find the best sustainable alternatives. At Embrapa, a project arrangement is in progress, led by Embrapa Fisheries and Aquaculture, located in Palmas (TO). The goal is to plan strategies for increasing productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of the agricultural production systems of Matopiba.
The main crop in the main growing areas of Matopiba currently is soybeans. However, other crops like rice and cotton also have important roles. According to the survey, much of this boost in grain productivity is due to the access to technologies employed today such as the use of hybrids and cultivars adapted to soil and climate conditions, in addition to good practices for efficient use of fertilizers, correctives and defenders, as well as conservation management systems, such as no-till farming and integrated crop-livestock-forest system.
According to Embrapa researchers who work in the region, even with this big leap in soybean and maize productivity, the region still faces major challenges in the management and conservation of the soil and in the implementation of integrated systems of production. Although fairly widespread in other states of the Cerrado biome, ecological intensification systems still have great difficulties of implementation and conduction over the years.