Near Doubling of Brazil's Intensive Row Crop Area Since 2000

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jan 8;116(2):428-435. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1810301115. Epub 2018 Dec 17.


Brazil has become a global leader in the production of commodity row crops such as soybean, sugarcane, cotton, and corn. Here, we report an increase in Brazilian cropland extent from 26.0 Mha in 2000 to 46.1 Mha in 2014. The states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, Bahia (collectively MATOPIBA), Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Pará all more than doubled in cropland extent. The states of Goiás, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo each experienced >50% increases. The vast majority of expansion, 79%, occurred on repurposed pasture lands, and 20% was from the conversion of natural vegetation. Area of converted Cerrado savannas was nearly 2.5 times that of Amazon forests, and accounted for more than half of new cropland in MATOPIBA. Spatiotemporal dynamics of cropland expansion reflect market conditions, land use policies, and other factors. Continued extensification of cropland across Brazil is possible and may be likely under current conditions, with attendant benefits for and challenges to development.

Keywords: Brazil; area estimation; cropland expansion; land cover change; remote sensing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Crop Production*
  • Humans
  • Rainforest*