Grasslands, cattle and land use in the neotropics and subtropics uri icon


  • The paper reviews trends in land use change in the tropics and subtropics of Latin America and the Caribbean, and their relation to the evolution of the cattle industry in the region. It is posited that horizontal expansion is nearly finished, and that cattle sector, and the grasslands that support it, are beginning to intensify. Nevertheless a number of paradoxes subsist and are discussed. Most notable among these are the interactions among land speculation, a characteristic aspect of much of the extensive cattle industry throughout history, with policies and technologies. An overview of grassland-based cattle systems is given and their social, economic and environmental are discussed, showing some of the tradeoffs between intensification, equity and environmental impact. In this context, the desirability of integrating the crop and cattle enterprises is pointed out, and some of the barely incipient trends are identified. The potential benefits brought about by public sector funded research on tropical pastures has been simulated and is summarized, implying that this area of investment has been systematically underfunded. Lastly, the overriding importance of policy changes, and their close interactions with technology developments are analyzed based on simulations ran for the region, and it is concluded that grassland and animal scientists should become more involved in policy debates regarding development of the sector and its environmental implications

publication date

  • 1996