Panel Paper: The Influence of Climate Variability on Agricultural Development in Northern Brazil

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 10:25 AM
3016 Adams (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Avery Cohn, Tufts University
This paper examines the determinants of pasture to cropland transitions in Northern Brazil in order to identify opportunities for policies to shape the process. Interventions to encourage the conversion of a portion Brazil’s 200 million hectares of pasturelands to croplands may help to reduce pressure for habitat conversion and thus help to achieve a balance between ecosystem services and economic development as the Brazilian agricultural economy grows (1-3). Large areas of pasture are biophysically suitable for crop production (4). A fusion of satellite and agricultural census evidence suggests that, as predicted by Von Thunen’s theory of agricultural geography, pasture to crop conversion has begun to occur in regions where access to markets has raised the value of land (5-7). Though broad trends are apparent, for policymakers to manage the transition will require a more sophisticated understanding of the causes, consequences, and constraints of past dynamics. This paper uses econometric techniques to identify mechanisms of pasture to crop transitions in a part of Brazil of central importance for agriculture, ecosystems services, and biodiversity—the cerrado biome. We employ a spatially explicit panel dataset of pasture to crop transitions in cerrado Brazil. We use the panel to identify the primary factors that explain pasture-to-crop transition dynamics over the past decade. By controlling for fixed/intrinsic vs. flexible determinants of pasture to crop transitions, our findings help to identify areas with high technical potential for conversion, but where capital and knowledge constraints are likely limiting agricultural development. The paper closes with a discussion of a broader research agenda to test whether extension services and/or incentives can trigger pasture to cropland transitions in cerrado Brazil.

1.         Gouvello C (2010) Brazil Low Carbon Country Case Study.  (World Bank: Sustainable Development Department of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, Washington D.C.), p 286.

2.         Martha GB, Alves E, & Contini E (2012) Land-saving approaches and beef production growth in Brazil. Agric. Syst.

3.         Lapola DM, et al. (2010) Indirect land-use changes can overcome carbon savings from biofuels in Brazil. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences107(8):3388.

4.         Manzatto C, Assad E, Bacca J, Zaroni M, & Pereira S (2009) Agroecological Zoning of Sugarcane: To expand production, preserve life and guarantee the future (Portuguese). Documento 110 Embrapa Solos.

5.         Barona E, Ramankutty N, Hyman G, & Coomes OT (2010) The role of pasture and soybean in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Research Letters5:024002.

6.         Von Thunen JH & Hall PG (1966) Isolated state: an English edition of Der isolierte Staat(Pergamon Press).

7.         Mann ML, et al. (2010) The economics of cropland conversion in Amazonia: The importance of agricultural rent. Ecol. Econ. 69(7):1503-1509.