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Sustainable management feasible in São Paulo
The culture of the Jussara palm tree

 Agro Castanheiras Ltda., founded in 1962,
 which is celebrating  its  fiftieth anniversary,
 is the holder of Castanheiras Farm. This subsidiary
provides for the maintenance of about 20 employments
dedicated to activities related to
 the protection of the environment.


         The reforestation of the 138 hectares (345 acres), in a rural area   of   the   São Paulo-city (Parelheiros District), was initiated in 1942 by the company's founders.  The entire area was then planted with eucalyptus as well as Cunninghamia simensis trees and other species to produce selected Christmas trees. Three preexisting Atlantic Forest groves were preserved there.
          In 1960 a petition was made to the State Government to ban hunting in the area. The request was granted through Ordinance 62, published in the "Diario Oficial" on  May,10,1960.
      In 2002 the company petitioned IBAMA to declare the area as a "RPPN" (Private Reserve of Natural Heritage). In 2004 the required Forest Reversal Project was presented.  However, on signing the contract, it became clear that IBAMA required the extraction of the existing "exotic" species from the area within 5 (five) years, and subsequent planting of native species.  Such procedure would cause an irreparable damage to the environment, both within the area as well as all its surroundings.  It would cause devastating consequences to wildlife in the region.
The farm keeps daily records of animals seen there by  the employees.                          
     On March 2, 2005 the company formally registered with IBAMA its definitive cancellation of the project on behalf of creating the

      The same year a request was made at DPRN, for the institution of the Legal Reserves in the farm, according to the State of São Paulo´s current legislation, subsequently filed at the local Registry of deeds.
      The company's associates decided to voluntarily implant the Forest Reversal plan, gradually, according to common sense, minimizing the impact on wildlife.  Thus, annually, in pre-established areas, a planned thinning of the eucalyptuses is carried out and a subsequent planting of native species, produced in the local greenhouse (seeds collected from sections of the Atlantic Forest), as well as those purchased from reliable producers.
         In 2006 IBAMA declared the farm as an area for harboring wild animals.
         In 2007 the company decided to purchase 10 Hectares (25 acres) of Atlantic Forest located on the eastern borders of the farm in order to save it from the imminent takeover by squatters, where all palm trees had already been stolen by "palmiteiros" (a common term used in Brazil to designate those who make a living from stealing palm trees).
        Subsequently the Legal Reserve was instituted for all of the new areas (four independent properties). The DPRN management hesitated to approve such an “unusual” procedure. However, after the presentation of the map of the entire Estate to which those areas had been incorporated, the Legal Reserves were immediately approved.
         A solid wall was then built along the new borders to prevent encroachment by squatters, "palmiteiros", hunters, loggers, etc.

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CULTURE of the Palmito Jussara - Euterpe edulis 

         In 1985 the very first attempt to plant the Jussara palm tree was carried out inside a section of an Atlantic Forest grove.   Since it was located in the very central part of the farm no "palmiteiro" had entered there since 1942.
        This grove is locally designated "O Palmital" (the palm grove) due to the predominance of this species there, which stands out due to the high density of the specimens that prevail in the undergrowth of the forest. Access to this area is called the "Palmital" trail.     It starts at the watershed (Crossroad : 'Ex-Patula', 'Patula-1' and 'Patula -2', local designations for three Cunninghamia groves separated by inner lanes). This experience in the native forest was not successful at all.  No seedling survived due to excessive shade. In no way would the farm consider any kind of thinning or pruning inside a Native Forest.
        The following year – 1986 – a second experiment was made on a small scale: the sowing and subsequent bedding of seedlings within a Cunninghamia grove.  Previous thinning and pruning were carried out there in order to allow for adequate conditions of light. This time the result was excellent!
          During longer periods of drought, the newly planted seedlings are irrigated in order to ensure their proper development. It is performed by spraying, either using tractors, or manually by the planter.
Specially reserved rows provide access to the Cunninghamias.

  See : (movie "irrigating") =>

 Destination of seedlings ready to be planted

          Two and a half years after sowing, the seedlings can be transplanted to their definitive location.  The ground among the eucalyptuses must be previously prepared.

A strip one meter wide is mowed between the rows of old eucalyptuses, respecting the native species of undergrowth found there. Such a preparatory mowed surface is locally called "leira". As soon as the rainy season starts, the seedlings are planted at a 1.20 meter spacing.
          From that year on the systematic Jussara Palmito culture began on Castanheiras farm. Hundreds of thousands palmito seedlings have been produced there during the last two decades due to the favorable conditions there.                   
         All this can be viewed on the site, where visitors may observe a culture which could be considered unprecedented.

          Palm trees spring up there amid the Pinheiro (China Firs).  There is also a natural dispersal provided by the wildlife. Animals feel a safe refuge on top of the Cunninghamias.

          The company has already invested considerable resources for the preservation of the area and has created a model of environmental conservation within the city of São Paulo.

          It is significant to know about the background of this culture in order to understand the cause and effect which led to what are now called "exceptional conditions."

From Christmas tree culture to Palmito production

          The conditions there are unusual due to the previous culture of Cunninghamia-Christmas trees that had been developed since 1942 (70 years).
         From time to time a chosen eucalyptus grove underwent a clear-cut in order to plant Cunnighamias. It is quite a laborious culture. During the dry months the irrigation system was used to further growth.
          From the 1970's on, the trees received annual pruning (machete-shearing) in order to increase the density of their branches. Thus Christmas trees of incomparable beauty were produced.
         Every year, during spring (Sept.- Oct. in Brazil), a screening was carried out to select the very best trees. Only 10% of the planted trees were tagged to be cut for Christmas. The remaining ones became the forests that are presently found there and that provide habitats for wildlife and also the proper site for the palm tree culture.
          An interesting fact should be mentioned: the stumps of the extracted Cunnighamias sprouted.  Thus, a few months after Christmas, approximately five sprouts appeared. The excessive sprouts were removed, leaving a single bud to form the new tree. This operation is called locally “desbrota”.
          An attentive observer will realize that this has involved serious, conscious and responsible work that is beneficial to the environment.  Hence the unusual conditions found there presently facilitate this new culture.
         Thus, the Cunninghamia (exotic species) groves in São Paulo turned out to be a valuable tool for the systematic palm tree culture. The company also produces Cunnighamia seedlings for customers interested in forming groves of the species.

          In 2008 the partners realized that the efforts dedicated to that culture resulted in an excess of palm trees in the area. Their extensive shade was inhibiting the development of other native species, which is harmful for the environment. Therefore they considered advisable to carry out a controlled thinning of the palm trees, something that is presently forbidden by Law.

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         Quite understandably governmental department officers of the Municipality hesitated to grant such an unique license for the sustainable management of the Jussara Palmito culture, which is considered an endangered species.
          However, in this specific case, since the culture is being administrated reliably, a new type of sustainable management will be generated to become a model of culture. This will be to the interest of the Environmental Department as well as the private sector. It will also be an enriching experience for students and technicians involved in forestry, especially those seriously devoted to the environment.
         No prospects of immediate profit are expected in this specific case.
Currently the company anticipates a modest revenue from the sale of:
a) 100 palm hearts "in natura"  monthly ;
b) The pulp of the seeds (like açai berries);
c) Seedlings (for customers interested in reintroducing the species);
d) Firewood from the trunks of the extracted palm trees ( a new concept ).
          An interesting experiment conducted within the property consisted of collecting the long stems of the palm trees after being cut the “palmitos” (palm hearts) consumed by the owners. These logs were cut in the sawmill and stored in a shelter to dry out. Once completely dry they were bundled for firewood and properly packed in order to prevent them to absorb any humidity.  Surprisingly, this  turned out to be an excelent firewood. Generates a exceptionally steady flame not cracking at all, as it happens  with the eucalyptus firewood which has been sold by the company in São Paulo for over 50 years.     The abundant foliage from the palm trees accumulated along the inner roads is regularly chopped and deposited in the compost site for producing organic compound.  

    Unfortunately the License obtained for the ´Jussara´-Palm-tree-managing in S. Paulo forbids expressly the use of these stems commercially, though in the farm proved to be an excellent material for fireplaces. Our designation for it is “Fogo brando”“Gentle flame”.

       License for this endeavor will ensure the continuity of an existing culture, using an entire structure created during the last seven decades and shall promote the planting of more palm trees across the farm, especially among the old eucalyptuses, being beneficial to the environment inside the "APA-Bororé-Colonia".    It is an example and encouragement for the private sector of what can be done for the environment.
      On the other hand, the interruption of this enterprise would cause the exodus of workers dedicated to a real beneficial rural activity for the environment.
         The proper License for the Palmito-management finally was granted in 2014 by the State and by the Environment Department of the City of Sao Paulo
   Reg. IBAMA nº 51.745 - CETESB - Autoriz. nº 0000023241/2014  -  SVMA - TCA: nº 161/2014.
                                p. Agro Castanheiras Ltda.     E. William C. Hering    -   The Process

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Palmitos plantados às beiras das trilhas para caminhadas

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