What is regenerative agriculture?
As climate change becomes a more mainstream issue, consumers, farmers, brands and retailers are beginning to take a closer look at how to review land and animal management practices: if current topsoil degradation rates continue unchecked, all topsoil could be depleted in 60 years. And since it takes 1,000 years to generate one inch (3 centimeters) of topsoil naturally, now is a good time to take action.
Sustaining topsoil isn’t enough. We need also to adopt practices that can regenerate soils with improving soil health as the central foundation. While the term “regenerative agriculture” can have many meanings, in general it describes farming and grazing practices such as restoring degraded soil, improving biodiversity, and increasing carbon capture with the intention of creating long-term environmental benefits, positively impacting climate change while drastically improving farm profitability.
Balancing profitability and sustainability: regenerative agricultural practices can protect the environment, improve soil fertility, and optimize long-term profitably to create greater food security. Increasingly, precision farmers use geo-enabled smart devices and cloud computing to understand how no-till, cover crops, rotational grazing, and other sustainable practices contribute to better soil health, biodiversity, and CO2 sequestration.
Regenerative Agriculture Practices
Regenerative agriculture practices improve the overall health of soil and the environment. One of the key principles of regenerative agriculture is to keep the soil covered at all times. This is achieved through cover crops, which protect the soil from wind and water erosion, lower the temperature of the soil, and feed the microorganisms within it. A “no till” guideline helps to protect the soil’s natural microbiome, so by limiting the disturbance of the soil, it maintains its structure and prevents erosion. Lastly, regenerative agriculture promotes crop diversity. Biological ecosystems are maintained and strengthened by cultivating a diverse number of crops, which work to enrich and restore the health of the soil as well as create a habitat for beneficial insects.
In summary: financial impact of employing regenerative agriculture practices comes not only from the improvement and productivity of the soil profile but also from the effects and implications of the regenerative agricultural practices.
Four basic principles govern regenerative agriculture:
With the successful implementation of each practice, soil microbial, fungi, and bacterial populations strengthen the symbiotic relationship with one another, nutrients and minerals, water, and, most importantly, the roots of a developing crop. These relationships form the nexus of soil health, untapped yield potential, nutrient cycling, porosity, water infiltration, and organic matter development.
Improved soil health reduces the need for excessive fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide inputs by creating an optimal environment of nutrient cycling and plant vigor; this allows plants to compete better and face growing-season challenges. By progressing through these practices, allowing each principle to build on the next, a sustainable production model is created.
How Consumers Can Help
The easiest way consumers can contribute is to align themselves with brands that utilize products grown via regenerative agriculture. By way of vegetable and grains, consumers can do research to see if the farms where these products were grown utilized regenerative agriculture concepts like cover crops, crop rotation, and no-till. By way of meat, dairy, and eggs, consumers can look into if the farmers utilized practices like holistic management and rotational grazing
And now, the proof is in the pudding – here’s a great TedX talk from Gabe Brown, a regenerative farmer in North Dakota and a pioneer of soil health.
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My name's phil mora and I blog about the things I love fitness, hacking work, tech and anything holistic.
New Chapter! Head of Product at Vayda
Vayda is advancing regenerative outcomes in agriculture. By combining regenerative principles and a high-tech approach, we are focused on facilitating the reversal of climate change, while rebuilding natural ecosystems and feeding people with healthier food.
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