Friday, June 11, 2010

June 6 - Institute of Agriculture, Campinas

This morning I visited the Institute of Agriculture in Campinas (about 60 km from Sao Paulo). It was established in 1887 by then Emperor Dom Pedro II. It is the oldest of its kind in Latin America. They act as the research center for the Ministry of Agriculture. The school is very competitive and has many areas of focus - plant research, climate change, engineering and automation, soil and residue research, breeding and more. In 1929, when the US had the Great Depression and the import of Brazilian coffee almost halted, the IAC promoted and educated Brazil on the production of cotton to offset the economic loss of coffee. The IAC saved Brazil from economic disaster.

I met with a group of their professors. The school teaches hands on classes and runs several farms with the one in Campinas at 700 hectacres, 150 employees. The school does take on privately funded research projects, will run testing for farmers for a nominal fee ($12/sample), has created and distributed disease/pest resistant plantings to help farmers improve efficiencies and yields, researches new equipment. Some projects I thought everyone may find interesting:
  • underway with a vertical strawberry production
  • improved rubber tree plantings which Brazil uses in massive latex production
  • working to provide disease resistant plants for growers who grow ALL year round - in the need to implement Best Management Practices
  • working to deal with heavy precipitation concerns
  • have discovered a naturally grown coffee bean with NO caffeine (they take coffee VERY seriously here!)
  • studying climate change in which they have found the temperature change is mainly in the evening hours and how that effects plants

The IAC is committed to assisting farmers with better growing practices through research. Brazil is the largest consumers of commercial pesticides. Regulations for commercial chemicals here are lax. To purchase pesticides, growers are suppose to have "prescription" from an agronomists but this is not always the case. Research and options that the IAC is providing, will assist producers escape their chemical dependence.

I returned to the IAC farm in the afternoon to tour their cotton production, coffee beans (they are growing 90 varieties with some varieties that were brought to Brazil from Africa after the wars), an international tree garden (testing the growth of trees from all over the world), the "bamboo" street, and a cucumber testing. Other crops are cultivated but they are entering winter and outside production is limited. It is an amazing "plantation" in the middle of a very urban area. They have had to learn to co-exist with neighborhoods and people who often wonder the farm and pick and eat plants :) Those of us who have farms are familiar with this challenge. All items grown at the IAC farm are sold.

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