What is agroecological zoning?
Agroecological Zoning is a technical-scientific instrument built from the knowledge of environmental capability and vulnerabilities of a particular region, especially regarding the behavior and characteristics of climate, soil, vegetation, geomorphology, and focusing on the land capability for agricultural use. It also considers the social and economic characteristics of each region. As an instrument for spatial planning of agricultural production, it delimits agroecological zones, which are homogeneous areas, or environmental units, or even basic working units for agriculture. Thus, for each delimited area you can determine a set of general and specific guidelines that will direct public policies and land use actions. AEZ is a dynamic tool, and should be improved by adding new information according to environmental, socioeconomic, political and technological conditions.
What is the purpose of the agroecological zoning?
Overall, the main purpose of AEZ is to provide subsidies to agricultural research, technical assistance and rural extension, and also to guide decision makers in establishing public policies in agricultural development programs.
Which crops have already been contemplated with this tool?
To meet the Federal Government's demand expressed as a Decree, the agroecological zonings for sugarcane and oil palm crops were elaborated.
In the 1996/1997 harvest, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food supply (Mapa) started to implement the Brazilian agricultural zoning and to annually publish the sowing seasons calendar for crops of social and economic interest.
In 1997, Banco Central do Brasil has published the provisions linked to the granting of costing and insurance credit to the zoning adoption (Resolutions no. 2403 of June 25, 1997, and no. 2427 of October 10, 1997), which has contributed to the reduction of production losses due to impactful weather events, fraudulent requests and costs of 150 million a year. Currently, around 40 crops are contemplated.
With what purpose was the sugarcane AEZ carried out?
The sugar cane AEZ aims at the expansion and sustainable production of the crop in the Brazilian territory, from the delimitation of land potential for expansion of cultivation, preferably already occupied by pastures, intended primarily for the production of ethanol and sugar.
And the oil palm AEZ?
The oil palm AEZ aims to guide the expansion of the Brazilian production of the crop, in technical-scientific basis, in order to ensure the sustainability in its economic, social and environmental aspects in the anthropic areas of the following states: Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, Alagoas, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, and Sergipe.
What is Agricultural Climate Risk Zoning?
It is an instrument of agricultural policy and risk management in agriculture, which guides the farmer about the best time for planting or sowing crops, with the aim of reducing agricultural losses.
How is AEZ carried out? Which methodology and procedures are used?
There is not a single methodology for zoning; overall, it depends on the objective. It can be regionalized or specific to the given crop or group of crops, but studies are highly dependent on the availability of scientific and technical data and information.
Data and information about soils, climate and crops are raised and systematized in databases to be incorporated into tools such as agro-metereological models, those of geoprocessing and remote sensing and of digital processing techniques.
The environmental and socioeconomic variables are georeferenced and incorporated into the geographic information systems - GIS to be analyzed, classified and combined (crossed), and presented in the form of maps and reports, or technical notes.
The evaluation of the land agricultural potential for a particular crop requires a comparison between the eco-physiological demand of the species and the environmental resources of the area where it is going to be implanted. Aiming to meet a favorable cost/benefit ratio, this procedure is based on the fact that, for each vegetable species, there is a set of soil and climate characteristics to which such species is adapted, and the farther we are from these conditions, the lower the success in cropping and the more intensive and expensive the practices of improving the soil and crop condition becomes, which can make the cultivation technically and/or economically unfeasible.
For the sugarcane AEZ, an evaluation of the potential of the land for the production of sugar cane in a non-irrigated base (without full irrigation) was performed based on the physical, chemical and mineralogical characteristics of the soil spatially expressed in soil surveys and studies on climate risk, related to the requirements of the crop (rainfall, temperature, occurrence of frosts and dry spells).
The oil palm AEZ was basically obtained by intersecting climate and land capabilities, with emphasis on interactions between soil and climate.
What are the benefits?
As an instrument to inform public policies and decision-making for all agribusiness sectors/actors, it allows one to promote the use and occupation of agricultural lands focusing on sustainability and conservation of natural resources; reduce (environmental and socioeconomic) risks that are inherent to farming; and increase production, agricultural productivity, and food supply.
What kind of information does the document contain?
It contains the characterization and delimitation of areas indicated for agricultural use (capability), of areas and classes of climate risk (low, medium and high) and indication of planting and sowing seasons with low climate risk, for each municipality, per crop and cultivar cycle (early, medium and late), and by soil type sandy, medium and clayey). Such characterization is presented in the form of technical reports containing maps, tables, and a calendar of planting/sowing seasons.
For what kind of crop is the elaboration of agroecological zoning recommended?
For all crops of social and economic importance, provided that they have the necessary scientific and technical indicators available through agricultural research.
What is taken into consideration when one decides to conduct agroecological zoning?
Objectives and criteria determined by the claimant, the composition of the technical team and institutions involved, the availability of scientific and technical data and information, and the need for supplementary research are considered.
Is it a government decision?
Yes, it is a demand from the government, but also from other sectors of agricultural production, especially farmers and insurance companies (public and private ones), who see in the agroecological and climate risk zoning an alternative to reduce risks in agriculture and a potential increase in income.
How many professionals are usually involved in this work?
For the definition of methodology and implementation of the sugarcane and oil palm agro-ecological zonings on a national scale, a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional team was created, having Embrapa as coordinator. This team was composed of technical researchers and professionals linked to various Embrapa research centers and Universities, state institutions, and other research institutions such as the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet), Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) and National Supply Company (Conab).
In the specific case of the agricultural climate risk zoning implemented by MAPA, Embrapa and partner institutions are responsible for developing methodologies for each required crop and pass on to the Ministry. The Ministry, through a tendering process, hires a company to elaborate zoning for all Brazilian states.
What are the penalties for anyone who does not comply with the rules established in the zoning?
For farmers who use financial resources linked to rural insurance (Proagro and Proagro Mais), the penalty is not having investments reimbursed by the insurer and bearing the losses caused by breaks in production due to extreme weather events such as drought and frost, for instance. This occurs after requesting insurance coverage through the Occurrence of Losses Report and rejection by insurers and by the Special Resources Committee.
For farmers who use their own resources and are not linked to government funding programs for agriculture, the penalty is the loss of capital invested in agriculture due to breaks in production caused by weather events such as droughts and frosts, for instance.