- Conservation tillage
- Crop Rotation and Cover Crops
- Diversity farming
- Reduced interference with natural processes
- Increase in soil health
- Maintains crop yield sustainably
- Growth of more resilient crops
- Profitable farm
- Solution to climate change
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is an approach in which conservation and rehabilitation of the food and farming system is achieved. It aims to regenerate topsoil, increase biodiversity, and improve the water cycle.
Basically, the main goal of regenerative organic agriculture is to bring back a farmland which has become run down over the years.
It also tries to enhance the ecosystem (by raising biodiversity) and reduce carbon footprint, thereby increasing resilience towards climate change.
Practices in regenerative agriculture include the use of compost material on farmland and aiming to recycle as much farmland waste as possible.
Once a regenerative farm has been established, crop yields will increase. Deepening of the topsoil helps to improve production and fewer external resources like synthetic fertilizers and chemicals are required.
Farm output is dependent on the nutritional content of the soil along with compost material. However, regenerative farming still aims to be a fairly environment-friendly and productive process.
Why is Regenerative Agriculture so Important?
There has been a continuous decrease in biodiversity and loss of soil fertility on the planet. This, coupled with increasing loss of native seeds poses a huge threat to our future.
If we carry on at this rate, we may soon have to face serious public health risk due to loss of quality food supply within the next 50 years.
Food quality will be reduced as a result of diminished nutritional and mineral content in crops. This will definitely happen if we fail to protect our topsoil. Without proper protection and regeneration of the soil, it may become impossible to feed the world.
Our planet has over 4 billion acres of cultivated lands, 8 billion acres of pasture, and 10 billion acres of forests.
If we choose to ignore the importance of soil and these ecosystems, we may not be able to stop global warming and keep it below the 2 degree Celsius threshold any longer.
If we lose ecosystems, we are very much losing biodiversity and Earth’s resilience to climate change along with it.
Organic Regenerative Agriculture Practices
Regenerative agriculture is a type of farming system that rehabilitates and enhances the entire ecosystem on the farm.
Regenerative organic agriculture achieves that by taking a few factors into account like soil health, efficient water and fertilizer use, and improving biodiversity. All of these factors are worked upon simultaneously.
Regenerative agriculture is based on principles of conserving resources and improving efficiency to ensure sustainability of our farming systems and food supply.
How does regenerative agriculture work?
Emphasis is placed on agro-ecosystem techniques in regenerative agriculture, which include:
1. Conservation tillage
Tilling and plowing repeatedly leads to soil erosion and results in release of carbon dioxide into the air. It may also allow for development of soil microbes due to poor soil aeration.
This is because tilling and plowing results in a bare and compacted soil.
Regenerative agriculture aims to adopt low or no-till farming practices. This results in minimal disturbance to soil topography. Over time, regenerative agriculture will allow increased levels of soil organic matter to develop along with conservation of topsoil.
This will eventually create much healthier and resilient environments for plants to thrive in, along with keeping the carbon locked in plants and soil.
2. Use of Rotation and Cover Crops
If soils are left exposed, they will undergo erosion and prevent successful plant growth. Similarly, practicing Monoculture farming (planting same plant in the same area repeatedly) will either lead to loss of nutrients or excessive buildup of nutrients.
Excessive buildup of nutrients will definitely result in nutrient pollution.
However, with use of crop rotation and deployment of various cover crops in a strategic manner will help prevent soil erosion. It will also create a more nutritionally-diverse soil with different nutrients and minerals that are easily replenished.
3. Diversity Planting
Different types of plants release different levels of nutrients from their roots. Microbes feed on these nutrients and provide a different sort of service to the plant or soil.
Additionally, microbes do return these nutrients back to the soil or the plant.
By increasing the diversity of plants on these fields, we may improve mutualism between plants, soil, and microbes. This will result in a much more enriched soil which promotes high yield production.
4. Reduced interference with natural processes
In this way, there are fewer disturbances between the relationship of plants and microbes. Promoting natural relationships will produce a healthy soil in the long term.
Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture
1. Increase in soil health
The primary focus of regenerative agriculture is always associated with increasing soil health.
Regenerative International, a non-profit organization to globally adopt regenerative agriculture, says “Regenerative agriculture describes farming and organic practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity…”
It aims to improve quality of the topsoil (first 15cm of soil layers) by replenishing lost nutrients and preventing soil compaction. This is to optimize crop yields in the most sustainable manner possible.
2. Maintains crop yield Sustainably
Crop yield is still the same with regenerative agriculture as it is with any other type of farming practice.
It would be irrelevant to carry out regenerative agriculture if it meant compromising on crop yield. If anything, it ensures the crop yields don’t fall with time.
Nature Conservancy Organization says that regenerative agriculture helps to reduce the chance of yield loss from occurring and increase the quality of the crops.
P.S: You should also read about other sustainable farming methods.
3. Growth of more resilient crops
Farms infused with organic farming methods, like regenerative agriculture, are much more resilient to climate change.
Studies have shown that organic systems consistently produce higher yields during drought season.
It’s advantageous to have resilient crops on your farm as they recycle nutrients back to the soil and help to increase overall farm biodiversity.
Ensuring that your soil is healthy and resilient, harboring various soil microbes will result in reduced use of pesticides and proper suppression of diseases.
This is also known as Integrated Pest Management.
4. Profitable farm
Switching to regenerative agriculture may drive profits.
It helps to develop an economic reliance for the farmer. This is especially true because these practices avoid use of expensive chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and use of commercially developed synthetic fertilizers as conventional farmers do.
The jury is still out, however, if whether regenerative farming is more profitable or not, but early signs seem to favor regenerative agriculture.
5. The solution to climate change
Choosing to adopt regenerative agriculture allows farmers to tackle the current climate change issues, and make their farms more resilient and adapted to changing climate conditions.
It allows farmers to fight the issue and be a part of solutions to climate change crisis, by helping in reducing carbon emissions by using their land as a site for carbon sequestration.
The Rodale Institute, in a paper, made a statement; “we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture.’”
This will definitely be tough to implement, but surely not impossible and it will go a long way in preserving our environment as well as our future on the planet.