Agricultural production is the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon region. In Brazil alone, soy and cattle production support the livelihoods of millions, yet drive more than 80% of deforestation. It is essential to develop effective strategies to counter this trend. The winners of this year’s SFIAR Awards both present promising pathways.
Dr Samuel Levy and his team focus on a policy instrument: zero-deforestation commitments. ZDCs are policies made by food companies to purchase goods only from deforestation-free producers, blocking all others from their supply chains. In their project, Samuel and his colleagues determine whether and under what conditions ZDCs have reduced the environmental impacts of agricultural production. By identifying loopholes, strategies to improve the effectiveness of ZDC polices can be developed.
Lorenz Allemann focuses on agronomic measures to avoid pasture degradation. The latter is a main driver of deforestation and caused by poor management, such as a lack of nitrogen fertilization. A strategy to improve fertilization could be the use of a grass with biological nitrification inhibition capacities, combining it with nitrogen-fixing legumes. With his master’s thesis, Lorenz has contributed to analysing the potential of this strategy. First results from on-farm trials in the Colombian Amazon are promising.
Prof. Dr Ruth Delzeit, Head of the Research Group Land-Use Change at the University of Basel, will put the two award-winning projects into a wider context. The concluding panel discussion provides an opportunity for further debate.