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Chapter 7:Preservation of agricultural soil
Changes in the use of soil usually change the soil organic carbon content.Each type of occupation, soil and handling has a long-term
rate. For example, the equilibrium rate for forests with forestry activities isestimated at 45 t carbon / ha; for wood with fast rotation, 35 t / ha; and forgrains,
25 t / ha in the United States (the periods for equilibrium extendingfor dozens of years).In the more general case of soil that used to be covered with forests(including
vegetation) and were turned into pastures, there is a cleartrend towards a decrease in the carbon content of the soil. There are studiesinvolving direct planting practices for use with grains, showing that anappropriate handling allows the contents to be near those found in forests.
In Brazil, 59 percent of the soil is latosol and clay soil, where 39 to 70percent of the organic carbon is stored up to 30 cm deep, with great spacialvariations. The growth of sugar cane crops is incorporating poorer areas(mostly extensive pastures) and shall contribute to the recovery of the soilthrough the addition of fertilizers and corrective substances, also includingvinasse, filtercake and trash. This will lead to higher levels of carbon in thesoil and decreased erosion.Soil erosion loss is a serious problem, depending on the kind of crop, theagricultural practices, the soil type and the rainfall pattern. Pimentel
estimatedthe mean loss of soil due to erosion in the annual agricultural production in theUnited States at 18.1 t / ha. Corn (21.8 t / ha), soybean (40.9) and wheat (14.1)typically show high rates, whereas the rate for permanent crops and hay (uponestablishment) is 0.2, and rotation forests 2 to 4 t / ha.Today the sugar cane culture in Brazil is renowned for its relatively smallsoil erosion loss (compared with soybean and corn, for example). Thissituation keeps improving as harvesting without burning expands, therebyreducing losses to very low rates, comparable to those for direct planting inannual cultures.
Recent sugar cane expansion in Brazil has happenedmostly in poor soils (pasture land and strongly anthropizedcerrados), contributing for their improvement with the addi-tion of organic matter and fertilizers. Erosion losses aresmaller than in many other important cultures; it is expectedthat the growing harvesting of cane without burning will fur-ther improve this condition, with the use of the remainingtrash in the soil.