“Brazilian coffee farming is sustainable, as it uses techniques that allow the use of inputs efficiently, and can even be certified…”
Darlan Einstein Livramento is a professor at the Centro Superior de Ensino e Pesquisa de Machado – CESEP, and partner-owner of Livramento Consultoria Agrícola. Livramento is an agronomist, M.Sc and Ph.D from the Federal University of Lavras.
In crop management, there are agricultural operations that contribute to the sustainability of coffee farming:
- Recommendation and use of more efficient cultivars;
- Choice of farming system;
- Weed management;
- Management and control of pests and diseases;
- Use of inputs with better performance and lower environmental impact;
- Soil management with the recycling of coffee straw and green manure aimed at biological, physical and chemical improvements;
- Coffee physiology studies relating organic reserves and mineral nutrition;
- Association of crops and afforestation and agricultural mechanization.
Those practices have contributed to integrating biological and ecological processes with coffee farming, aiming to reduce the use of non-renewable inputs, and helping to build important capital assets for the crop.
However, “new” approaches are emerging to improve crop management. In the case of fertilization, for example, there are stabilized fertilizers; controlled slow release products; and slow release by chemical effect products.
Organic and organo-mineral fertilizers and green manure also contribute to the sustainability of coffee farming. There are plant growth regulators and biostimulants, that provide a “fine-tuning”, and that provide benefits for coffee plants such as tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, greater vegetative and reproductive growth and yield increases.
Another example is intercropping and afforestation, that is based on the idea of better use of the area, cost reduction and formation of a microclimate. This can be a strategy to diversify areas, making the activity more sustainable.
Diseases and insect pests that attack the coffee trees also have ways of handling and control that contribute to sustainability. Effective monitoring associated with the management of insect pests using different forms of control, such as cultural, genetic, chemical, biological, behavioral, are strategies that can reduce the injuries caused by insects.
In the case of diseases that affect coffee trees, there must be monitoring of the symptoms and signs of the disease, quantifying the incidence and severity as a way of indicating the type and time of control. In this context, studies on the amount of initial inoculum associated with the reduction of disease cycles in the farms allow for increments in control, and with less usage of inputs.
The use of disease resistance inducers is an option to help control diseases and increase yields. We also can’t fail to mention the phytosanitary alerting stations, that collaborate in the management of coffee pests and diseases. All of these techniques allow for more efficient use of resources.
In post-harvest preparation, the use of techniques that use fewer inputs can be observed in the reuse of water from the coffee washer, peeler and pulper and the use of coffee cherry pulpers/peelers, that use little or no water. The wastewater itself, that contains potassium, can be used in composting, along with coffee straw and husks.
Coffee farming can influence the carbon balance, where emissions and removals of greenhouse gases – GHG can be quantified depending on the different types of crop management, associating the biomass stored in conservation areas and soils, where good agricultural practices can affect the gas balance, improving density and carbon storage potential.
Given these scenarios, ecological management that addresses energy flows, nutrient cycling and system resilience can lead to the redesign of coffee farming with positive results for yields, reduced input use and carbon balance.
Brazilian coffee farming is sustainable, as it uses techniques that allow the use of inputs efficiently, and it can even be certified. Certification can contribute to the coffee farmer being remunerated for the quantity and quality of the sustainable practices adopted. Thus, the segment can envisage, through commercial mechanisms, direct remuneration to the farmer or group of farmers for carbon sequestration.