Terra Preta, meaning "Black Earth" in Portuguese, is a soil-building technique developed by Amazonian civilizations at least 7,000 years ago to correct poor soil fertility. Large deposits are still found with depths of up to 2 meters. Prior to diseases brought by Westerners, this web of communities is estimated to have totaled over 100 million people.
Terra Preta may have been what sustained them in harmony with their ecosystems.
These fertile, dark soils are an important agricultural resource in Amazonia today. They provide a model for sustainability of food production in tropical environments.
Yet, the West has yet to figure out how ancient civilizations produced Terra Preta which contains 50 times more organic matter and 3 times more phosphorus and nitrogen than neighboring forest soils. Terra Preta would double or triple the soil’s fertility in tropical countries and could reduce/eliminate, hunger for about 1 billion people. Even heavy tropical rains don't leach nutrients out of this miraculous earth.
Terra Preta is a testament to vanished civilizations of the Amazon Basin and may show how large societies can sustain intensive agriculture on infertile soils. The rediscovery of this lost technique is crucial to creating human sustenance in harmony with the Earth. Terra Preta also has the potential to sequester carbon.