SHORT-ROTATION EUCALYPT PLANTATIONS IN BRAZIL: NEW TRENDS
As mentioned, the increasing price of the land surrounding company
facilities and some new restrictions on plantations in southeastern Brazil
stimulated forest companies, along with state governments, to begin local tree
farmer programs to reinforce wood supplies. These programs, however, were not
readily accepted by local farmers, who were concerned that eucalypt plantations
would divert land from food to timber production (
Given this situation, agroforestry appeared to be an alternative that could
integrate timber and food production, thus meeting food demands while
addressing wood production needs. However, for agroforestry to be acceptable,
both companies and farmers had to have accurate biological, technical, and
economic information about the intercropping of agricultural crops and tree
plantation species. Agroforestry as a science is relatively new, despite being
a historical land use in Brazil as well as in other parts of the world.
Agroforestry research in Brazil, particularly involving eucalypts, has only
been done recently. In 1986, the relevant literature for agroforestry relative
to eucalypts in southeastern Brazil was limited to only three studies. The
first work consisted of Eucalyptus alba intercropped with corn in the
state of São Paulo (Gurgel Filho
1962), followed by E. grandis intercropped with soybeans in Minas
Gerais (Couto et al. 1982), and E.
grandis intercropped with beans in São Paulo (
The success of these studies stimulated researchers from the Federal
University of Viçosa to continue studying a series of eucalypt
agroforestry systems. These studies were a joint effort between forest
companies in the state of Minas Gerais and the university and were funded
through the Society for Forest Research and certain forest companies. The
research has included Eucalyptus torelliana intercropped with corn in
Belo Oriente (Ferreira Neto 1993);
E. grandis intercropped with black beans in Peçanha (
Today, most of the forest companies in Brazil are adopting agroforestry as an alternative land use, mainly for their tree farmer programs. Agroforestry is likely to become a key point of the plantation programs oriented toward the small farm operation.
Studies conducted by some Brazilian companies have shown that Ceteris paribus energy production from biomass cannot compete in price with energy generated from oil, coal, and natural gas. The only way it might be competitive would be by generating a more valuable form of energy--electricity. This may be possible by means of a new technology--Biomass Integrated Gasification/Gas Turbine or BIG/GT, developed in the United States at Princeton University. This technology consists of gasifying and using the gas to move a turbine, which produces electricity. The exhaust gases from the turbine are captured for additional energy production. Compared with the 20% conversion efficiency of traditional steam-based electricity production, the new technology has a 40% conversion efficiency.
In 1992, Brazil submitted a technical proposal to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to build an experimental BIG/GT plant and to study the economic feasibility of commercial development. The five-stage project was approved and is now under way. The first stage was to evaluate the technical proposal and preinvestment studies. The second stage, to be concluded by 1994, involves the development of equipment and basic engineering and economic feasibility studies and preparation of the basic structure for stage three. Stage three consists of the construction of the pilot plant with the US$23 million funded by GEF. Additional capital resources will be provided by associated companies: Centrais Eletricas Basileiras, Companhia Hidro Elétrica do São Francisco, Fundacao de Ciência e Technologia, Companhia Vale do Rio Dole, Shell Brazil S.A., and Shell International Petroleum Company. This joint venture is coordinated by the Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology. The pilot facility will probably be built in Bahia close to eucalypt plantations. The fourth stage, which will last for 24 months, will comprise operational demonstration tests with sugar cane bagasse and wood biomass. Finally, the fifth stage will be the commercial development of the plant.
This BIG/GT project is the first of its kind in the world and, if successful, will bring many advantages, such as small plant size that allows decentralization of electrical energy production; reduction of energy transmission costs; small capital investment, allowing private companies to enter the sector; use of marginal agricultural lands for short-rotation forest plantations devoted to biomass for electricity energy production; generation of jobs in rural areas; and utilization of the Brazilian dendroenergetic potential. The northeastern region of Brazil, alone, has a potential of transforming 197.1 million steres (stack meters of roundwood in 1 m × 1m × 1m piles) each year into 19.673 thousand megawatts of energy per year.
In 1992, the Brazilian Society of Silviculture (SBS) along with the private forest companies proposed the creation of a US$500,000 Integrated Management System for Improving the Value of Forestry Affairs (SEIVAS). This system is designed to predict the world markets 10 to 20 years in the future. This information will help identify goals for the Brazilian forestry-based products in the international market. Based on world market trends and Brazil's conditions, the system will ultimately define markets in which the country can enjoy a competitive edge. Furthermore, the system will indicate what components of the industry would have to be developed to reach these goals. Two parts of the system are already being implemented: the program for preservation and recovery of the Brazilian forest cover and the Certification for Forest Products (CERFLOR) project related to the origin of the raw material utilized in manufacturing of forestry products. The CERFLOR project has a certificate called a "green stamp" for any forest raw material or product originating from native forests or plantations managed according to environmentally sound techniques. Coordination and elaboration of the rules for receiving this certificate was assigned to EMBRAPA.
Mega Afforestation (FLORAM) is a forestry project proposed in 1990 by the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo to promote social advancement. The project's objective is to establish 20 million new hectares of forest plantations in Brazil over the next 20 years. This project, according to the Industrial Institute for Economic and Social Research from Stockholm, Sweden, would generate one million jobs and would produce US$10 billion per year in forest products. This project received the support of the private sector, universities, research institutions and nongovernmental organizations in Brazil and is now under way. FLORAM proposes three types of forests: the first for industrial purposes using exotic species, the second for dual purposes (conservation and commercial utilization) using exotic and native species, and the third for conservation only (using native species only).
The authors want to thank Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Council for Research and Technological Development (CNPq) for supporting the preparation of this paper. Thanks are also due our many friends from the Brazilian forestry sector for providing valuable information, which allowed this work to be completed. Finally, the authors want to dedicate this paper to Professor Walter de Paula Lima, one of the brightest scientists dealing with the environmental issues of the large-scale eucalypt plantations in Brazil.