With an area of 8,511,965 km², Brazil is one of the largest countries in the world, with an extensive surface of continuous land, a large supply of fresh water, abundant solar energy, and a rich biodiversity. Among the existing 250,000 species of higher plants, nearly 60,000 are native to Brazil. Besides the world’s largest tropical forest, the country has over 200 million hectares of Savannas (known as “Cerrado”) with immense agriculture and livestock production potential.
Brazil has used its diversity and resources to successfully become a world leader in many sectors, including agriculture. The wide range of climatic conditions, from temperate to tropical, together with advanced capacity in technology development, allowed considerable diversification of the country´s agricultural production, which have made Brazil the world’s largest producer of citrus fruits, frozen concentrated orange juice, sugarcane, and coffee. The country is also a serious global competitor for many other products — soybeans, tobacco, poultry, corn, beef, biofuels — as well as self-sufficient in the production of most agricultural goods.
Technology development for tropical agriculture has been one of Brazil´s main strengths, as illustrated by the evolution of the soybean crop in the country since the 1960´s (Figure above). Today, Brazil is the second producer in the world, with a volume, in 2009, of 58 million tons, only exceeded by the United States. Introduced in a commercial scale in the years 1960-70, it adapted well only to temperate regions in the Southern part of the country. Technology in breeding and genetics, crop and soil management, and biological nitrogen fixation, developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation – Embrapa and other partner organizations, allowed adaptation of this legume crop to low latitudes, in the “Cerrados” and in other agroecological zones located in Central, Northeastern and Northern Brazil. Over the past 30 years, average soybean yields have increased more than 130 percent, with quality as high as any produced in the world.