Cerrado soils are among the world's oldest soils and have extremely low native fertility. Cerrado soils usually have low pH levels and high aluminum saturation, and are deficient in phosphorus, potash and trace minerals (see soil analyses). However, the soils are extremely deep and permeable, with excellent physical characteristics. They are exceptionally suited to mechanized farming since they can be worked under a wide range of moisture conditions.
Fertility of productive cerrado soils is "man made" in the sense that these soils require extensive modification for viable crop production. Limestone, phosphorus, potassium and trace elements must be applied to correct low pH, aluminum saturation, and macro and micro nutrient deficiencies (see soil analyses).
Building soil fertility takes time. On soils used for dryland farming, very high productivity can be achieved, but only after one, two or more crop years (see soil analyses). The time period for fertility enhancement of irrigated soils is shortened by the increased biological and biochemical activity resulting from year-around crop production.