Third International Conference taking place in Brazil in November

Embrapa Temperate Climate Research Center in Pelotas – Lowland station.

Three years after the Second Brazilian ‘Rochagem’ Congress in 2013, Remineralize the Earth’s executive director, Joanna Campe, has been invited once again to attend the Third Stonemeal Congress, to be held this year at the Embrapa Temperate Climate Research Center in Pelotas. RTE hopes to send V. Miranda Chase, coordinator for our online research database, to the four-day event from November 8-11, 2016.

The conference will bring together individuals from all backgrounds – scientists, farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers, academics, experts, and officials – to present and discuss the results of their research and projects relating to remineralization. It is co-hosted by the Embrapa Temperate Climate division (the Brazilian equivalent of USDA) and CPRM-PoA (the Brazilian Geological Survey).

Pelotas represents an interesting choice of location for the Congress. The city is located in southern Brazil, just 270 km from Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul. In terms of climate, it is nestled within a subtropical region receiving heavy precipitation and cold weather for part of the year[1], posing challenges to growing crops in the region. Therefore, adopting remineralization techniques to enrich the soils could produce a significant impact for its agriculture.

 

History of remineralization efforts in Brazil

 

Map of Pelotas, Brazil

Map of Pelotas, Brazil

Brazil is the leading nation when it comes to research and policy-making for the utilization of rock dust as a soil amendment. Brazil ranks fourth globally in fertilizer consumption[2] and imports an estimated 70% of its artificial fertilizers from outside.[3] Yet the country only produces 2% of the world’s crops, showing a significant deficiency in input versus output. This has led to an active search for alternatives that can improve the nation’s agriculture yields.

Research on remineralization began at the University of Brasilia with Dr. Othon Leonardos, a reputed geologist with a deep understanding of geochemical processes in the tropics. Two of his students, Dr. Suzi Huff Theodoro, PhD in sustainable development at the University of Brasilia, and Dr. Eder de Souza Martins, lead researcher at Embrapa, then went on to expand the research and lead the movement on remineralization in Brazil. Since then many other academic and research institutions across the country have taken up investigation on this technique.

One example of their research is a partnership between the University of Brasilia, dryGrow Foundation, and RTE at the Quilombola community of Lajedão dos Mateus, which led to a research project in the semi-arid region of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. This project aims to cultivate prickly pear cactus as animal fodder using agroforestry principles. The project also involves researching the effects of rock dust and manure on crop growth. Now part way through a two-year ongoing project, the results are already promising. The researchers noted improved cactus growth in the plots treated with the mixture of rocks and manure.[4] RTE will provide in-depth information on this project in an upcoming feature series.

The Bahia project is just one of many other remineralization research projects going on in Brazil. As momentum in the field of remineralization builds, Embrapa has decided to hold conferences specifically for the research and development of stonemeal products for agriculture. Embrapa is currently researching remineralization at their research centers in twelve different regions of Brazil. The Congress is open to organizations, companies and individuals who are actively involved with remineralization efforts worldwide.

 

Previous Congresses and Brazilian Legislation

The previous two Congresses were held in 2009 and 2013. The first Congress set a precedence for the upcoming meetings, whereas the second focused on deepening research on remineralization, with plans to commercialize remineralization products.

There have been great leaps in the adoption and recognition of remineralization techniques and products in Brazil, including with regard to laws and government policies. Before 2011, none of the fertilizer regulations in Brazil included remineralization products as an agricultural amendment. The legislative means that governed the production and sale of fertilizers, soil amendments, inoculants and biofertilizer products in agriculture did not cover remineralization. The laws that set limits for allowable contaminants from these products also ignored remineralization.

Then in 2011 and 2012, there were calls for two bills to be amended not only to include remineralization products as a category of fertilizer, but also to call for the creation of a national program for soil remineralization. A year later in 2013, a law was passed to officially include remineralization products as an agriculture input. New legislation passed this year, in March of 2016, regulating remineralization through standardizing the classification of remineralization products with specific specifications and guarantees, tolerances, registration, packaging, labeling and advertising of remineralization products[5]. These laws show that Brazil takes remineralization seriously as an agricultural practice, which has paved the way for the upcoming Congress in November.

The Third Stonemeal Congress this year will cover all aspects of remineralization including the technology, industry, and policies regulating remineralization products. The primary topics to be addressed are: (1) establishing a standard for applying remineralization products, (2) identifying new sources of materials, (3) studying the rate of mineral weathering and nutrient release, (4) understanding microbial interactions with minerals, (5) evaluating the agronomic efficiency of the remineralization technique, and (6) developing new products and formulations.

RTE and the Congress

The Congress is instrumental to bringing RTE’s mission to a wider audience. It is an important opportunity for RTE to meet other experts in the field and establish collaborative partnerships. During the second Congress, Joanna spoke with the owner of a Brazilian rockdust company who said that his company started because of the information he’d seen on RTE’s website eleven years previously. Other attendants she met include companies such as Ecostone, a remineralization product company based in Paraguay with active operations in Europe. The owner of the company, Guido Augustin Lopez Cardenas, is a professional soil scientist that researches gabbro rock dust usage.

As well as many others that Joanna had networked with for a number of years and never met, at the Conference Joanna met Carlos Cristan, an agronomist with 18 years of experience with remineralization efforts in Brazil. He works in particular with citrus and horticulture in Minas Gerais. Another Congress attendant was Jose Carlos Alves Ferreira, who runs Rockall Fertilizantes Naturais, a rock dust producer in Chapada dos Guimarães, central Brazil. A more detailed summary of the previous Congress can be seen at “Highlights from the 2013 II Brazilian ‘Rochagem’ Conference”.

Having had a great experience at the Second Congress, Joanna encourages attendance and participation from others that are part of the international community and network dedicated to remineralization. This will be crucial to spreading the word about remineralization to other parts of the world.

RTE is hoping to send V. Miranda Chase, coordinator for our online research database, to the four-day event from November 8-11, 2016. In order to realize this goal, RTE is currently looking for contributions to support travel to the Congress. We will be holding a campaign soon to fund travel and any donation is greatly appreciated. Come back in the near future to our website, remineralize.org to hear more about the campaign!

 

Zu Dienle Tan recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a Master’s degree in natural resources and environment. She specializes in conservation ecology and is passionate about biodiversity conservation, agroecosystems and sustainable development.

 

Update Coming Soon

More about the Congress can be seen at:

https://www.embrapa.br/en/busca-de-eventos/-/evento/207407/iii-congresso-brasileiro-de-rochagem

Interested in learning more about remineralization in Brazil and the previous Congresses? Read more at:

Also watch related interviews and videos at:

 

References

[1] “Pelotas.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 May 2016. Web. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelotas#cite_note-14>.

[2] Spira-Cohen, Ezra. “Highlights from the 2013 II Brazilian “Rochagem” Conference.” Remineralize the Earth. N.p., 9 Oct. 2013. Web. <https://www.remineralize.org/2013/10/highlights-from-the-2013-ii-brazilian-rochagem-conference/>.

[3]“Remineralization: Brazil Enacts Groundbreaking Legislation for Sustainable Agriculture.” Organicconnectmag. N.p., 02 Feb. 2014. Web. <http://organicconnectmag.com/remineralization-brazil-enacts-groundbreaking-legislation-sustainable-agriculture/>.

[4] Gaian, Dasha. “Remineralization in Rural Brazil.” Remineralize the Earth. N.p., 11 Oct. 2010. Web. <https://www.remineralize.org/2010/10/remineralization-in-rural-brazil-2/>.

[5] “III Congresso Brasileiro De Rochagem – Portal Embrapa.” Embrapa. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.embrapa.br/en/busca-de-eventos/-/evento/207407/iii-congresso-brasileiro-de-rochagem>.

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