MEMORIES OF THE CERRADO
Fernando Penteado Cardoso*The passing of years often makes us forget facts and their repercussions. We should remember, for example, that the IRI Research Institute, which is currently headquartered in the US, was involved in the history of the recovery of the cerrado when it operated in Brazil during the 1950"s and 60"s under the direction of the American agronomist Jerome (Jerry) Harrington. At the time, the IRI was financed by the Rockefeller brothers and complementarily by several agribusiness industries, including Manah.
At IRI"s Experimental Station in Matao, State of Sao Paulo, and at farms located in Anápolis, State of Goias, Sao Joaquim da Barra and Pirassununga, State of Sao Paulo, fundamental research were carried out and validated which indicated, for the first time, that the poor soils of the cerrado could yield as much as the fertile tall woodlands, as long as they received lime with magnesium and the other macro and micro nutrients they missed. These research carried out in 1956/60 were under the responsibility of the American agronomist Colin McClung.
Manah, represented by me, closely followed Colin"s work and then manufactured adequate fertilizers under the guidelines of the research findings. In 1985, with the assistance of the process engineer John Sinden (Englishman) Manah created a new fertilizer, which was patented under the trade name “magnesian multiphosphate”, containing Mg in the phosphate molecule. The new fertilizer was studied at the International Fertilizer Development Center - IFDC by the researcher Sen H.Chien, showing superior results. The original product gave origin to the compound fertilizers enriched with micronutrients, sold under the tradename FOSMAG.
During 4 years, from 1985/90, Manah had the initiative of financing works of validation of its product, as well as works in no-till planting, in two experimental farms on cerrado soil located in Morrinhos, State of Goiás, which were rented for that purpose. The supervision was conducted by another agronomist, John Landers (Englishman), who had been part of IRI"s staff.
At the same time, the product was tested in hundreds of observation fields all over the country. With its proven positive effect, especially on cerrado soil, FOSMAG began to be sold, always with technical assistance involving both product and soil conservation methods, especially no-till planting, in order to avoid the fertilizers being wasted by erosion.
Then there followed the spectacular development of the cerrado by brave and diligent agriculturists, especially from the South. During the 60s/70s rice was planted followed by Brachiaria, thus originating the pastures that expanded our well-succeeded beef cattle raising based on the Nelore breed. Then, during the 80s and 90s, came soybeans, maize, cotton, coffee, and others, thus consolidating, - with the support of EMBRAPA and other research agencies,- the formidable work of converting into fertile land large areas which were until then considered as improper for agriculture.
During this period, it is worth remembering that the “Cristalina” soybean variety created by the agronomist Francisco Terazawa, as well as the PRODECER - a government program focused on the development of the cerrado, and the creation of EMBRAPA, idealized and promoted by another agronomist, then Minister of Agriculture, Alysson Paolinelli.
The production on the cerrado became highly sustainable through the no till planting technique. The conquest represented by the “cerrado/soybean/no- till”, earned from the renowned Borlaug the opinion of being "the greatest agricultural event of the 20th century worldwide".
Six agronomists, Jerry, Colin, Cardoso, Landers, Terazawa, and Alysson, were active participants in the development of the previously unexploited poor cerrado lands, which are now responsible for an important part of the Brazilian agricultural production.
Each at his time and at his own way, but all of them with their eyes and minds focused on Brazil.
Those are some of the technicians involved in the early years of the development of the cerrado. Jerry authorized and supported IRI"s research. Colin and his companions were the creators of the fertilization of the poor soils. Cardoso, along with other industrialists, was the entrepreneur of the production and distribution of the indispensable input. Landers embraced the cause of the cerrado, and extended his enthusiasm to the sustainability through no-till planting. Terazawa created the right seed and Alysson established decisive government policies.
Jerry is still directing the IRI in the US and, back to his homeland, he has always followed with special interest our agriculture and cattle rising. Colin divides his time between his little farm in the State of New York, near Cornell University, and a house in Washington where he spends the winter. Cardoso lives in Sao Paulo, and presides over the Agrisus Foundation - Sustainable Agriculture, at the same time taking care of no till sugarcane and nelore cattle in Mogi Mirim, State of Sao Paulo. John resides in Brasilia, and is always involved with No-Till Planting through the APDC, a Brazilian association focused on no-till planting on cerrado soils. Terazawa is in Ponta Grossa, State of Parana, still producing seeds together with his sons. Alysson, in Belo Horizonte, along with his sons, provides consultancy and takes care of his ranch.
* Senior Agronomist and President of the Agrisus Foundation
SP-22/2/2005, rev. 07.01.2007