The overall objectives of the Terra Preta program are:
- Understanding the conditions under which Terra Preta originated, both from the biophysical and socio-economic side;
- Understanding the institutional and policy dimensions related to actual use and potential future use of such fertile soils, including the creation of new soils;
- Linking actual perception and use of these soils for various agricultural purposes, ranging from annual and biannual cropping systems to (agro-) forestry, to biophysical properties and socio-economic conditions (markets);
- Contributing to the creation of soils that allow sustainable and productive agriculture in the Amazon, using the functioning of Terra Preta as a source of inspiration;
- Contributing to and maintaining the functioning of a network of Latin American Terra Preta researchers;
- Using the conceptualization of Terra Preta as socially constructed soils to reflect on (and change) actual scientific discourses and practices, both in research and education.
The central questions of the program are:
- Under what historical ecological conditions was Terra Preta formed (both in terms of a technical dimension of soil amendments and a socio-cultural and palaeo-economic dimension of institutions, preferences and constraints that led to large-scale investment in soil quality enhancement)?;
- What are the present uses and soil fertility dynamics of Terra Preta in their agro-ecological and socio-economic context (in terms of cropping systems, ranging from annual food crops via peri-urban agriculture and home-gardens to agroforestry systems and forests for timber production)?;
- Which constraints and options can be recognized (and subsequently removed), both in the institutional and technical domains for (rapidly) creating Terra Preta Nova to contribute to sustainable soil, agro-ecosystem and forest, and landscape management, enhanced food security, livelihood and mitigation of climate change with the help of biochar?