Analyzing the agricultural transition in Mato Grosso, Brazil, using satellite-derived indices

Abstract : The Amazonian state of Mato Grosso is the main production area for soybeans in Brazil and contains 31.3% of the national production as of 2009. The rapid evolution of the agricultural systems in this area shows that the region is experiencing a rapid agricultural transition. In this paper, we broke down this transition process into three steps: crop expansion, agricultural intensification and ecological intensification. We used remote sensing products to develop and compute satellite-derived indices describing the main agricultural dynamics during the cropping years from 2000e2001 to 2006e2007. Our results indicated that Mato Grosso is continuing to expand its agricultural sector, with a 43% increase in the net cropped area during the study period. Although this expansion mainly occurred in the cerrado ecoregion until the early 2000s, the forest ecoregion is experiencing expansion at this time.We observed that 65% of the crop expansion in Mato Grosso from 2000 to 2006 occurred in this ecoregion. However, we did not identify this crop expansion as the major driver of deforestation in Mato Grosso because only 12.6% of the cleared areas were directly converted into croplands. Agricultural intensification also evolved rapidly, as the proportion of the net cropped area cultivated with double cropping systems harvesting two successive commercial crops (i.e., soybean and corn or soybean and cotton) increased from 6% to 30% during the study period. Finally, we found that ecological intensification occurred because the region's farmers planted a noncommercial crop (i.e., millet or sorghum) after the soybean harvest to prevent soil erosion, improve soil quality, break pest cycles, maintain soil moisture and set the conditions for high-quality no-tillage operations. In 2006e2007, 62% of the net cropped area was permanently covered by crops during the entire rainy season. This practice allowed the farmers to diversify their production, as shown by the positive evolution of the Area Diversity Index. Future scholars can use the method proposed in this paper to improve their understanding of the forces driving the agricultural dynamics in Mato Grosso.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 9:07:33 AM
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Damien Arvor, Margareth Simões Penello Meirelles, Vincent Dubreuil, Yosio Shimabukuro, A. Bégué. Analyzing the agricultural transition in Mato Grosso, Brazil, using satellite-derived indices. Applied Geography, Elsevier, 2012, pp.702-713. ⟨10.1016/j.apgeog.2011.08.007⟩. ⟨halshs-00622905⟩

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