Analysis of soybean cropland expansion in the southern Brazilian Amazon and its relation to economic drivers

<div><p>ABSTRACT The agricultural dynamics of soybean expansion have long been recognized as a major driver of excessive land cover change on the southwestern border of the Brazilian Amazon. The hypothesis that the soybean market exerts an influence on land use was investigated by the association between economic indicators and soybean crop dynamics in the state of Mato Grosso (western Brazil). We integrated a historical series of satellite data of soybean cropland expansion and the two main economic variables (selling prices and production costs) for soybean in Mato Grosso. We focused on the relation between profit (the difference between the average soybean price and production costs) and land-use transition to soybean from 2001 to 2013. The spatially explicit analysis showed that the overall accuracy between the resulting first-time use and the most recent soybean crop area in 2013 was 96.75%, with a Kappa index of 0.63. However, dissimilar values found between Omission and Commission indicators suggest that most of the expanded areas prior to 2013 (5.57 million ha) were under a high dynamical range of land uses. Although there is no direct relation between either the deforestation rate or expansion trends (first-time-use rate) and profit, the results strongly suggest (R2=0.81) that profit exerts a direct and non-negligible influence on the evolution of consolidated land use for soybean in Mato Grosso State.</p></div>