Leucena: who really are you?

With wide distribution throughout the national territory, leucaena invades the most varied types of environments and ecosystems.

04.03.2016 | 20:59 (UTC -3)

Originally from Central America (SANTANA E ENCINAS, 2008), aleucena [Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit] is a tree legume that was introduced in Brazil in the 1940s as an alternative feed for livestock (SANTANA, 2008). Due to its rusticity, belonging to the group of pioneers (SANTANA, 2008) and establishing symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (FRANCO E FARIA, 1997), the species also began to be widely used in recovery projects for degraded areas (GORLA et al., 1977).

Despite the statements above, leucaena has attributes that make it one of the worst weeds in the world. According to ALVES et al.(2014) the species affects the resilience (capacity of the environment to re-establish itself after some disturbance) of invaded sites and promotes the homogenization of flora due to its high competitive capacity and the release of allelochemicals into the environment, it is toxic to animals and affects productive arrangements, through a decrease in the quality of pastures and by being a host to crop pests and diseases.

With a wide distribution throughout the national territory, leucaena invades the most varied types of environments and ecosystems, with its ability to establish itself and quickly dominate anthropized riparian sites in the Caatinga, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest being quite worrying. In these places, leucaena forms true “green deserts”. It prevents the plant richness and diversity of the area from being re-established and consequently all animal life that depends on these plants as a source of food, shelter and refuge, thus compromising all processes natural ecological.

Areas invaded by leucaena are true “green deserts”.

Although some aspects initially indicated that leucaena could be a promising species for some projects, the scientific knowledge accumulated in recent years leaves no doubt that its introduction in the country was yet another case of irresponsibility and lack of common sense on the part of researchers from public institutions. Brazil is considered the country of “megadiversity”, around 1/5 of the species known in the world occur here. In our territory there are thousands of native species with the most varied potential for use. There are no logical reasons, therefore, for If we invest in the use of species such as leucaena, quite the opposite.

Due to all these issues, it is necessary to create public policies aimed at prohibiting the planting of the species and strategies to control it. The damage and burden caused by leucaena tends to intensify the larger its populations are. It is essential that we act immediately, before it is too late.

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024