VIDEO: Remineralizing Brazil: A Visit to EMBRAPA

Interview with Eder de Souza Martins, and a sneak-peak into the heart of Brazilian remineralization research.

For the second episode of Remineralizing Brazil series RTE crew went for a visit to the Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research, EMBRAPA. The state-owned company is affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture. It is devoted to pure and applied research. EMBRAPA conducts research on many topics including remineralization. The mission is to provide feasible solutions for the sustainable development of Brazilian agriculture.

In the first part of the video Eder de Souza Martins, one of Embrapa’s leading researchers, describes the exciting developments of Brazilian remineralization research. In the second part another Embrapa researcher, Sandro Hurtado, will take us on a tour to EMBRAPA greenhouse to show off some of the exciting trial results on the importance of minerals for health and well-being of plants.



1. Intro.
2. Interview with Eder Martins.
3. Sandro Hurtado speaking at the greenhouse.

1. Intro:

Voiceover by Joanna Campe:
We are heading over to EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research. The state-owned company is affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture. It is devoted to pure and applied research. EMBRAPA conducts research on many topics including remineralization. The mission is to provide feasible solutions for the sustainable development of Brazilian agriculture.

2. Interview with Eder Souza Martins.

My name is Eder de Souza Martins, I have worked at EMBRAPA since 1997, I am a researcher specialized in Geology. I studied Geology at the University of Brasilia and also did my masters and doctorate in that subject. We have studied rocks as a source of nutrients since the late nineties in partnership with the University of Brasilia, under the co-ordination of Professor José Carlos Gaspar. This field had its start at the University of Brasilia in the early seventies, with Professor Othon Leonardos. Both of them were my advisers and they inspired the beginning of a research network on Brazilian silicate rocks as a source of nutrients in Brazil. And that network has consisted of twelve EMBRAPA centers and twelve partner institutions, and there are several research centers and also universities and other partner research institutions.

We started by studying rocks as a source of potassium, testing rock samples that are available in several regions of Brazil: the Northeast, Midwest, South and Southeast. And today we are developing long-term studies to analyze the residual effects of these rocks and we also have experiments, where we study rocks as a source of nutrients for these regions. Then we develop partnerships where we integrate mineral producers, the farmers, and researchers within each region. Through our research we are looking to increase the sustainability of liquid biofuel production.

What is also important to mention is that we are creating a transition process in which initially we are combining rock dust with soluble fertilizers. Our goal is to reduce the need for soluble fertilizers over time.
We also have research projects in various regions of Brazil, because in this country we have a great variety of both soil types as well as types of agriculture, and, at the same time, we have a great geological diversity. This way we can utilize the full potential of each region. Another important point is that most Brazilian soils are very depleted in nutrients, and remineralization can restore the fertility of these soils.

3. Sandro Hurtado speaking at the greenhouse.

We test in three stages. First in the lab, where we see the mineral content and the rock’s potential to provide nutrients. In the second step we see the effect of the rock dust sample on a crop in the greenhouse, to see if the minerals are available to the plants. At the third stage we do field trials, which we have been doing for about a year. Getting a response in the field takes a bit longer, but this is the procedure. We perform tests on a variety of crops, from annual to perennial, from biofuel to pasture, under different conditions, ecosystems and other variables.

This is the greenhouse stage of testing. We made initial tests comparing two rock dust samples as sources of potassium for agriculture. In this case, we found that one provided potassium and the other one did not. Looking at the first photo, we see a plant where all elements were provided for optimum performance. In the second one the elements and nutrients were not provided. In both cases marked in red we wanted to see what would happen when the plant has no potassium. In both cases dehydration was a factor. In the last photo we have the same situation without potassium, and then it was added in increasing doses of  50 to 300. One of the rock dust samples showed high mineral content in laboratory conditions, yet when it was tested on plants, the mineral availability was low, and the result was similar to our sample without potassium, showing symptoms of dehydration. Another sample, a biotite schist, performed better due to a higher nutrient availability, and the result was similar to the one where all nutrients were provided. The plant with increased supply of nutrients even surpassed our control. This was due to a more complete spectrum of minerals, not only potassium.

This sample did not show positive results for potassium, but it did provide a small amount of phosphorus. The quarry which provided the sample shown here said that they had positive results in the field. This sample was tested as a source of phosphorus in two types of soils. Here we can see the effects of addition increasing amounts of rock dust. Here we have a plant where all the nutrients were provided. Here is untreated soil. Here’s what happens in the situation where you have a spectrum of minerals, but with the absence of phosphorus. Next is an addition of 50 mg/dcm3 of phosphorus, the improvement is obvious. Here the amount is doubled, 100 of phosphorus, and here are the final doses of 200 and 400, as we see the response is positive, the rock provides nutrients, but compared to the control where complete spectrum of nutrients is supplied, it does not have the same result.
Here the growing cycle is coming to an end, and here culture has not reached the end of its growth cycle, however, the response is satisfactory. Now we only have to see how much needs to be added to annual crops to achieve the desired effect. That’s why we have to test perennial crops as well.


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