The new breadbasket

AFTER the Green Revolution, the next great leap forward in food production is predicted to be in the cerrado region of South America, a grassy area covering more than 200 million ha. This exceeds the total cultivated land in India.

Unfortunately, much of the cerrado soil is acidic and, until recently, it was deemed worthless for farming. But with scientists having developed new strains of corn, wheat and soyabean that are highly tolerant to the aluminium in acid soils, 12 million ha of the Brazilian cerrado are now producing one-fourth of Brazil's rice, corn and soyabean crop, one-fifth of its coffee and 15 per cent of its beans. Says Sanjaya Rajaram, a scientist at Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz Y Trigo (CIMMYT), an internationally-funded agricultural research centre based in Mexico, "The cerrado could be the breadbasket of all South America, with wheat as the main crop."

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