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Suzano-Unit Starts China Trials to Reclaim Desert for Farmers

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Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- FuturaGene Plc, held by Suzano Papel e Celulose SA, began trials in northwest China to test the potential of woody crops and shrubs that reclaim desert to help boost the economy for local farmers.

The company is working on four field trials in Gansu province to study whether the plants can fight desertification, enable soil regeneration and be used as biomass and in biofuel, Sao Paulo-based FuturaGene said today in an e-mailed statement. The trials will run for four years.

“We’re dealing with very poor communities with very degraded agricultural land,” Chief Executive Officer Stanley Hirsch said in an interview in London. “Farming practice in these places is very simple and it’s very difficult for these communities to actually derive a livelihood from agricultural land.”

Desertification of land caused by factors such as wind and water erosion is a “major ecological” problem in China, with as much as 30 percent of land affected. Vegetation in affected areas in northern China requires “significant improvement” to boost the local ecosystem and bring economic benefits, Hirsch said in the statement.

Once the trials are complete the plant varieties with the most potential will be improved through breeding and biotechnology and FuturaGene intends to replicate the project in similar environments across the world, according to the statement.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Louise Downing in London at Ldowning4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg in London at landberg@bloomberg.net