With a decisive role in the food industry, through sugar production, and in stimulating the diversification of the Brazilian energy matrix, with the generation of bioelectricity and biofuels, the sugar-energy sector faces challenges that increasingly demand the adoption of strategies capable of combining technology and sustainability.
And as one of the largest sugarcane processors in the world, BP Bunge Bioenergia has been using agricultural practices and field management solutions that increase productivity and minimize negative impacts on the environment. Through investments in research and development guided by an agenda of valuing the circular economy, we ensure that the sustainability of our products is based on operational efficiency with a long-term vision.
In this sense, there is a whole set of actions that range from increasing the use of bio-inputs, organic materials and Pre-Broken Seedlings (MPB) in crops, to alternatives for reducing the application of chemical pesticides, qualifying biological control and promoting the rational use of irrigation. Thus, a fundamental initiative is the goal of eliminating the use of mineral fertilizers in planting by 2025, valuing vinasse and compost in soil nutrition.
Regenerative agriculture as a differential
Applied in a localized way, vinasse – one of the by products of sugarcane processing – makes it possible to avoid using water for irrigation and to protect soil quality by preventing the fields from being saturated with potassium. Of BP Bunge Bioenergia’s own 300,000 hectares, around 80% are already using the residue, which is capable of extending the longevity of the sugarcane plantation by two years and bringing productivity gains of between three and ten tons per hectare. The results are encouraging and we plan to increase this application to 96% of plantations by 2025.
In the same vein, in the 2022/23 harvest we managed to replace the use of nitrogen fertilizers in 100% of the planting area by increasing the presence of the Nitrospirillum amazonense bacterium. The solution helps with nitrogen fixation and the development of sugarcane, increasing productivity in the fields. In addition, the bacterium Azospirillum brasilense, a biostimulant that inhibits nutritional stresses and diseases and limits climate impacts, is used in 100% of the ratoon areas. This practice has already made it possible, for example, to reduce nitrogen doses by 50%.
Present in BP Bunge Bioenergia’s DNA, regenerative agriculture relies on various techniques that protect the health and fertility of the soil and favor biodiversity. Among them is composting, where we can improve the condition of the soil and increase productivity by between 10 and 15 tons per hectare. In this way, in the last harvest year, we began standardizing the composting yards to mix filter cake (from filtering sugarcane juice) and bagasse ash (from burning it to generate bioenergy) – by 2025, the goal is to produce organo-mineral fertilizers from these organic materials and eliminate the use of mineral fertilizers such as phosphorus and potassium when planting crops.
Good for the industry, better for the environment
Another significant axis in the search for excellence in agricultural management is biological pest control. At our 11 mills, we use drones/vants, among other technologies, to distribute the larvae of the wasp Cotesia flavipes in the sugarcane fields, with the aim of combating the borer (a larva that causes major productivity losses in the crops). In the fight against the leafhopper and Sphenophorus levis (sugarcane weevil), the company uses the fungus Metarhizium Anisopliae and entomopathogenic nematode technology (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora), respectively, where it is a pioneer and has achieved excellent results.
In order to boost productivity in sugarcane plantations, planting with Pre-Broken Seedlings (MPB) is proving to be very effective, as it is important for ensuring traceability and reducing costs. At the MPB Production Center – the Moema unit in Orindiúva (SP) – we generate around 3.4 million sugarcane seedlings a year, taking into account the specific characteristics of each of the company’s 11 units. This process boosts confidence in the origin of the material and provides healthier plants that grow 20% faster than other planting methods.
Finally, it should be noted that reducing water abstraction and consumption and the quality of water resources are part of our sustainable agenda, included in the “Our Commitments 2030” goals, which aim to guarantee the rational use of this resource in our agro-industrial processes. Both to mitigate climate impacts and to maximize productivity in the fields, our water deficit mitigation management focuses on the organization of the harvest and the conscious expansion of irrigation and fertigation (without localized vinasse), helping with sprouting and improving the production cycle. In the last harvest (22/23) the application of water or vinasse reached approximately 60% of the planted area.
In addition to harvest management and irrigation, other practices are constantly used to promote root growth, such as the incorporation of organic matter, crop rotation, the application of organomimeral fertilizer and development stimulators. It is important to note that the use of wastewater and vinasse in the fertigation process means that we also have less demand for water abstraction from watercourses for irrigation purposes.
Achieving high levels of productivity, in line with a sustainable development project requires commitment, investment, research and technology. It requires advancing in best practices, efficiency and identifying opportunities. Our commitment to being the world benchmark in sustainable energy production involves some of the techniques briefly highlighted in this space, which should gain even more strength in the coming harvests, with the aim of building a low-carbon future while saving financial and environmental resources.
Rogério Bremm – Agricultural Director of BP Bunge Bioenergia