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Eduardo Stehling, biologist and researcher at Bela Vista Forestry.

The introduction of forest species on a property is not just a financial decision. Several factors must be considered. Among these factors we include the availability of manpower, topography, how fit is the area, immobilizing the chosen area during the years of production, and cultural components that must be taken into account. If the property already has farming or ranching activities, this issue tends to be more complex, because despite knowing that forestry activities can be more profitable, often the owner simply enjoys doing what he does, either agriculture or livestock.

There are, however, ways to deploy, on the same property, forest species together with farming and/or raising livestock. The most common way is through consortia, or agroforestry systems.

The advantages of agroforestry systems are already well known. When intercropping agriculture with forestry plantations, one is making a better use of the land, a more efficient and rational use of natural resources, a good soil erosion control, reduction of microclimate variations and, consequently, the mitigation of production loss risks. There is also better workforce distribution and less need for weed control.

When compared to traditional forest planting, these consortia bring about revenue anticipation, variety of products and reduced forest deployment costs.

In the case of agroforestry systems, studies indicate that the benefits brought by the trees for livestock rearing activities are associated with shading and climate mitigation, as well as nutritional improvement of pastures caused by the recycling of nutrients in the soil. The trees bring these advantages and start from the moment natural pruning begins, generating a considerable improvement in soil physical, chemical and biological conditions. The main benefits are grazing season expansion, increased reproduction rate of cows and calves survival rates, as well as increased gain in weight and in milk production.

When the consortium is held with other plant species, forest species benefit from the treatment of the associated crop, obtaining better development and increasing profitability in the production area.

Most forest species bring all the benefits mentioned, but selecting the right species for the area of ​​interest is an opportunity to optimize the consortium’s profitability. The production of timber for sawmills is indicated due to the product’s higher value added.

In this context, Australian cedar stands out for being a tree that is shorter than eucalyptus; it acts as wind barrier creating less shading, because there are already highly productivity clones of this species and good profitability.

There are several possibilities for the deployment of Australian cedar, alone or in agroforestry systems. The first step is to identify areas being underutilized or unused in the property. Areas that already have irrigation systems, such as a central pivot system, irrigated coffee or other crops can further extend the gains. The consortium with coffee in non-irrigated areas is also an excellent choice, since the cedar’s nutrition is similar to that of coffee, which enables the same management for both species, yielding excellent development, with advantages for both crops. Planting, re-cutting and skeletonizing are the best times for deployment.

In the case of agroforestry systems, it is important to adopt adequate spacing and remove the animals during the implementation phase, to guarantee proper tree establishment.

The choice of appropriate species for each type of soil and climate is essential at the time of planting. It is also important to remember that to be successful with the chosen species in agroforestry systems, one needs the minimum crop treatment to achieve productivity and the expected profitability. Each piece plays its role, aiming at improving the area, higher productivity and increased profitability in the field.

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