In Central Brazil’s vast Cerrado savanna, a grand experiment is taking place. Baru trees by the hundreds are being planted – some in the form of seeds, some as seedlings, and some well on their way to maturity in agroforests alongside other native vegetation. In some tracts, cattle graze among the more mature baru trees, in other areas, no cows are allowed.
The point of all this testing is to uncover the premium growing conditions under which the baru (Dipteryx alata) can thrive. The species, native to the Brazilian Cerrado, is a key part of reforestation efforts in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. And overseeing a reforestation project on the Boa Vida farm near town of Bonito is a woman who is a “traditional seed guardian,” Elida Cristina Martins.
“I found that if we planted baru with bananas nearby it grows much faster than when planted alone, and the bananas help break the wind and keep the ground wet to keep the baru healthy,” she said as she gave a recent tour of her farm to a group of visitors from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Tapestry Foundation.