The example of the Brazilian Biological Agricultural Revolution
Brazil’s soybean production this next coming harvest is going to be slightly bigger than US soybean production for the second consecutive year and all this achievement was obtained without any government incentive much less with subsidies. Without the chinese market american soybean growers are more or less on their own as far as selling their crop is concerned.
Regarding corn, Brazil is still a bit far from the US production but today everyone knows that all that corn production is made possible due to heavy US government subsidies. The corn alcohol incentives red numbers are starting to pile up and with the general decline trend in energy prices worldwide, a day would come that US government would have to definitely stop it as it goes against every economic rule know to mankind.
When that happens some 30 to 40% of corn production will disappear overnight, making room for other profitable and environmentally sound initiatives like other types of nutritional grains and probably grass fed beef like John Kempf had the opportunity to envisage this December 2019 in the Acres USA Conference, based on a Gary Brown type of extensive husbandry.
Those two examples are more than sufficient to show that american agriculture needs a radical change in its methods.
Therefore, time is ready for the american growers to start considering what has gone wrong. If America has the best Universities and Ag Research Centers what has possible gone wrong and what they can do to reverse this trend. I believe that time is ripe to rethink american agriculture as well as international agriculture taking Brazil as an example.
Analysing Brazil’s agriculture scene, one of the main changes that has taken place in the last 10 years has been the advent of the so called Biological Organisms Multiplication “On Farm” guaranteed by the country’s agricultural legislation.
Today we have excellent and scientifically proven task specific organisms to increase Nitrogen synthesis and fixation, Phosphate and Potassium release, but also biological insecticides, fungicides, nematicides and even some types of bacteria that can live in the rhizosphere and impart a high degree of drought resistance to the plants. It is really a brave new world.
Brazilian biggest agricultural commodities production groups have already engaged in this practice to the point of having their own biological factories inside their large agricultural complexes. But the most progressive big and medium sized farmers have their own “biofactories”, as they affectuously call their biological organisms preparation facilities. Dozens of them, depending on the size of their agricultural operation, have even a Biologist in charge of the whole operation of producing fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, yeasts and other biological consortiums for their daily agricultural needs. Today not only Agronomists are seen in this agricultural environment but also many Biologists and even Geologists, some of them with PhD education level.
Brazilian law sees natural organisms such as bacteria, yeast, actinomycetes, fungi and insects as non patentable because they are a result of billions of years of evolution and were created by Nature and therefore shouldn’t be no one’s property. A company can isolate, multiply and sell a biological agent but they cannot patent it. On the other hand, the same law protects the right of the manufacturer in which, once a certain organism is isolated and marketed, no one can claim proprietary rights upon that same organism and consequently sell it.
The legislation mentions specifically that any multiplication done on farm for the grower personal use is totally legal and allowed . Therefore, commercially branded biological products are purchased in large scale in the same fashion as seeds are bought for planting a crop field. Biological organisms in Brazil are seen exactly in the same way as seeds to repopulate worn out and degraded soils due to long years of following academia and big companies advices.
For instance, you can also buy a commercially branded wasp and multiply it in your own farm for your personal use but that doesn’t allow you to sell it. Farmer’s Cooperatives, on the other hand,can have their centralized production of biological agents and make them available to their associates.
In the course of those 10 years or so, brazilian farmers have learned how to use biologicals in a way that transcends even their original recommended and registered task specific purposes reaching goals and levels that even the academia have never dreamed possible.
Some of the observations growers came to appreciate is that biological organisms never have a single task like academia and manufacturers likes to brand them. For instance, the bacteria named Bacillus thuringiensis which produces several CRY proteins that kills worms like Spodoptera frugiperda, the main corn pest, is also an endophyte that upon entering the plants starts to produce all sort of Plant Growth Promoting Substances ( PGPRs ) and confers to plants a rather unexpected and remarkable vigor. This is also true for Bacillus subtilis that also kills nematode eggs and destroy leaf fungi besides solubilizing and releasing tied up phosphorus.
Every biological organism is in fact a multiple task organism and the growers are learning to work with them as they have the opportunity to grow them ad libidum in the farm. The sky is really the limit.
Biologicals, when multiplied at farm level, have their price reduced to a fraction of the original bottled price plus other special features that a freshly multiplied and activated organism have (as compared to a dormant organism that needs to be in that particular state in order to survive its declared shelf life ) that allow them to be used in quantities never imagined before, and therefore bring about effects also never dreamed before.
Due to the high price of commercially branded biological products ( in Brazil from 30 to 40 dollars per Liter) their recommendation generally falls within the range of 1 to 2 liters per hectare to make them affordable. With these same organisms multiplied on farm growers can use 5 liters per hectare at a fraction of the original cost ( actually the cost has been reduced to US$ 1.00 per Liter). With a final bacterial count identical to the comercial one and sometimes even higher by a factor of 10 X. Not bad at all.
Commercial bottled organisms are in a dormant state and the ones multiplied at farm level are fully alive and activated. From the beginning we noticed a marked difference between commercial dormant products and those activated and multiplied at farm. The ones multiplied in the farm will have also plenty of microbial metabolites as a bonus and taking into account their higher dosage use this really makes a big difference.
Because of this reduction in cost, farmers can now use, for instance, higher dosages and achieve the effect that came to be know as “flooding effect” . Also we may apply 2 or three different biologicals at same time as in the case of soybeans with the so called “triple inoculation” with Rhizobium ( or Bradyrhizobium ) plus Bacillus subtilis and Azospirillum brasiliense that brought about nodulation in V1 stage never seen before.
Agronomy books are being rewritten in this very moment due to this new and real Biological Green Revolution.
Chemical planting fertilizers used were in the same quantities on both sides of the two plots shown in the picture.
How could we let the chemical fertilizer industry convince us, for nearly 180 years, that plants needs primarily N, P and K to be grown ? This picture says otherwise.
The field on the left received several biologicals multiplied on farm, which were Azospirillum brasiliense, plus a commercial product named Bacsol (that allegedly have more than 15 organisms) and Bradyrhizobium, a well known soybean inoculant, applied in the planting furrow, whereas in the right, but due to a problem in the biologicals tank pump these products have not been applied on the right side.
This picture is the biggest proof that “ Biology always triumphs Chemistry “ that I have ever seen. One more credit to John Kempf, a brilliant young american EcoAg consultant, who is adamant in making this statement in all his courses, some articles and podcasts.
Brazilian agriculture is also a good example that when the government and regulatory agencies gets out of the way of the farmers they really know what to do.
But what was the role of local universities and research centers in this whole process ?
I would say that the great majority of biological researchers were against empowering the growers as most of them were always trying to isolate, test and sell a new bug to the industry. The academia clearly took the side of the Industry in this issue with a very few, but worth of mention, exceptions.
To those highly courageous individuals who stood side by side with the growers I would like to express my most sincere and deep gratitude and admiration. Therefore, one name among several others, have to be mentioned and that is Dr. Rose Monnerat of Embrapa.
Some academics even went to the point of spreading alarmists and false words of an allegedly “danger” of multiplying bacteria on farm forgetting that the multiplication of agricultural organisms is a process similar in many aspects to making fermented products and fermented food such as yogurt ( lactic acid bacteria ), vinegar ( acetic acid bacteria), silage, pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, compost, compost tea, etc…
But when a technology reaches more than 10 million hectares ( 24.7 million acres ) there is little that a biased opinion and fake news can do to stop it. Millions of kilograms of insecticides, fungicides and nematicides have been “removed” from the environment in a broad and sustainable movement that is equivalent to 10 x the whole incipient brazilian Organic Movement that occupies only a mere 900 thousand hectares ( 2.2 million acres ) clearly demonstrating that organic agriculture is not the solution to our current agricultural problems and it is not the only way.
Therefore, time has come to pay tribute to those courageous agricultural researchers that have risk their careers to stay side by side with the growers and not with the commercial interests of the agribusiness industry. This brazilian new biological agricultural revolution has a trading mark, and that is it has been inspired by women from the very beginning. Two researchers of german/austrian origin, Dr Johanna Dobereiner who have isolated, discovered the Nitrogen fixing abilities therefore reclassified Spirillum genus to Azospirillum, who showed that biology can replace chemistry and Dr Ana Primavesi who spend her entire career teaching on eco agriculture principles since the 70’s.
At the same time, scientists like Dr. Ademir Callegari, a world renowned researcher on Cover Crops specially with multiple species ( cocktails ), helped to establish this wonderful practice that has a tremendous regenerative effect on worn out soils. His work and dedication will be forever remembered as one of the main contributions to establish brazilian biological agricultural revolution. Today also many millions of hectares were also brought back to life using this wonderful technology not only in Brazil but also worldwide.
Regarding soil mineralization with the use of Rock Powders, Brazil’s example is no less than remarkable. Here again growers have got a good support from some outstanding researchers from the official brazilian agricultural research institution ( Embrapa ) who also stood up with the growers when most of their colleagues still insisted in reciting the NPK mantra. Names like Dr Eder Martins, who helped to establish the validity of this important soil amendment technology among farmers and to scrutinize the country’s many rich mineral deposits, will never be forgotten. Recent work done in other scientific institutions ( 1 ) serve only to corroborate the work done here on Rock Powders that started back in the 60’s.
In the last three years that I have attended Acres USA Conference I have noticed a very strong biased attitude from the so called “progressive” eco-farmers towards biological agents, by calling them “a bug in a jug “ on one hand and on the other hand, putting too much and unjustified faith in aerobic concoctions like compost tea, etc…
Some of these EcoFarmers seem to forget the Universal Law of Conservation of Matter simply because they want to build something starting from nothing. This is Physically impossible.
Well, I would like to let them know that we have taken these highly specialized and scientifically proven bugs out of the jug, multiplied them on the farm and transformed them from a dormant and zombie like state to a fully operational and activated “super bug “ and they are really doing a great job in our fields along with their highly valued microbial metabolites at a ridiculously low cost ( US$ 1.00 per liter or 0.88 quarts ). This may not look politically correct to those EcoAg “philosophers” but it is making our life so much easier, sustainable and profitable.
When it comes to make agriculture sustainable, safer and more profitable maybe it is about time to definitelly throw politically correct into the garbage container where it belongs.
Maybe this is the proper time for the american farmers to put prejudice aside and start working seriously taking advance of the good science of Biology and by claiming for their legitime right to multiply biological agents on the farm for their own personnal use and specific purposes and for the progress of american agriculture as a whole. This is what makes a lion different from a lamb.
I would like to leave you with the original quote that have inspired the title of this article which reads like this :
“And when they seek to oppress you And when they try to destroy you, Rise and rise again and again Like the Phoenix from the ashes Until the lambs have become lions and the rule of Darkness is no more” ( 2 ).
José Luiz M Garcia
Instituto de Agricultura Biologica
The author holds a M.Sc. in Post Harvest Physiolgy and Biochemistry from MSU.
Teaches Biological Agriculture throughout Brazil, is an organic Farmer and
Consultant and writes regularly in his blog on Biological/Regenerative Agriculture.
1 Liter ( L ) = 0.88 quart ( qt ) , 1.76 pint ( pt ) or 35.3 fluid ounce ( fl oz )
1 Hectare ( ha ) = 2.47 Acres
1 L/ha = 0.35 q / acre, 0.71 pint/acre or 14.3 fluid once/acre
- Stephanie A. Napieralski, Heather L. Buss, Susan L. Brantley, Seungyeol Lee, Huifang Xu, Eric E. Roden ( 2019 ) Microbial chemolithotrophy mediates oxidative weathering of granitic bedrock. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201909970 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1909970117
- Maytreya, Friend ( 2011 ) The Holy Book of Destiny, Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 310 pp.