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FAQs about Regenerative Agriculture

Here are a few frequently asked questions (FAQs), compiled to quickly answer your questions about Regenerative Agriculture. 

What is the exact definition of regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is a holistic, systems-thinking approach to farming and food production that seeks to improve and maintain the health and productivity of soil, ecosystems, and communities. It’s based on the principles of agroecology, which recognizes the interconnections between soil, plants, animals, and people and seeks to create systems that are both productive and sustainable.

This is achieved by focusing on practices such as reduced tillage, cover cropping, crop rotation, composting, intercropping, and livestock integration into farming systems. The ultimate goal of regenerative agriculture is to create closed-loop systems that produce abundant and nutritious food while regenerating the natural resources that make farming possible.

A bean, peas, and wheat mixture @ ikbenboer, Netherlands

How can you plant seeds without tiling?

Planting seeds without tilling involves methods such as no-till or minimum-till farming, which aim to maintain soil structure and reduce soil disturbance. This is done by planting seeds directly into the ground, often with the help of specialized equipment, without turning over the soil. By preserving the soil structure, no-till farming can help reduce erosion and improve water retention, as well as promote healthy soil biology. Additionally, by reducing soil disturbance, this method can also help to reduce the release of carbon stored in the soil, which is a major contributor to climate change.

The advantage of No til
The Advantage of No-till

How does crop rotation work?

In crop rotation, different crops are grown in the same field in a sequence, with each crop being grown in the same location only once every several years. For example, a common crop rotation might involve growing a cereal crop such as wheat in a field one year, followed by a legume crop such as soybeans the next year, and then a root crop such as potatoes the year after that. This sequence of crops is designed to take advantage of the different nutritional requirements of each crop and to build soil health by adding organic matter, reducing pest and disease pressure, and improving soil structure.

Crop rotation can also help to reduce the buildup of pathogens and pests in the soil and to conserve soil moisture. By rotating crops, farmers can also reduce the risk of crop failure due to soil-borne diseases and increase the overall productivity of their farms.

What is intercropping?

Intercropping is a farming technique where two or more crops are grown in close proximity on the same field during the same growing season. The purpose of intercropping is to increase yields, improve soil health, manage pests and diseases, and make more efficient use of resources such as sunlight, water, and nutrients.

How tall is a seedling?

The size of a seedling can vary greatly depending on the species of plant and growing conditions. In general, seedlings are small, young plants that have recently germinated from seeds.

Seedlings are typically just a few centimeters tall and have a few leaves. The size of seedlings will depend on factors such as the species of plant, the growing conditions, and the type of seedling. Some seedlings can be just a few millimeters tall, while others can be several centimeters tall.

As the seedling grows, it will develop a stem, roots, and additional leaves and eventually mature into a full-sized plant. The size of a seedling at any given stage will have a significant impact on its survival and future growth, so it is important to provide seedlings with the right growing conditions to support their development.

It is best to plant trees as young as possible.

Moringa Seedlings @ Anauá Nursery

What is the impact of regenerative agriculture on the environment?

Regenerative agriculture has a positive impact on the environment in several ways:

  • Soil Health: Using practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, and crop rotations, regenerative agriculture improves soil structure and fertility, reducing erosion and increasing the soil’s ability to store carbon.
  • Biodiversity: Regenerative agriculture promotes biodiversity by encouraging the planting of diverse crops, reducing pesticides, and providing habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.
  • Water Conservation: Regenerative agriculture practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, and crop rotations help retain water in the soil, reducing runoff and promoting groundwater recharge.
  • Pesticide Reduction: By promoting soil health, reducing tillage, and increasing biodiversity, regenerative agriculture reduces the need for synthetic pesticides, reducing their release into the environment.
  • Reduction of Greenhouse Gases: By improving soil health and reducing emissions from synthetic inputs, regenerative agriculture helps reduce the release of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
  • Climate Change: By sequestering carbon in the soil and reducing emissions from synthetic fertilizers and other inputs, regenerative agriculture can help mitigate climate change.
Desktop research example on the benefits of regen ag

How do you measure biodiversity?

​​Biodiversity can be measured in various ways. You can count the number of species in a particular area, the abundance and distribution of different species, and the genetic diversity within species.

The most common method for measuring biodiversity is species richness, which is the total number of different species in a particular area. You can do this through bioacoustics, listening to nature to determine the ecological system. Other methods for measuring biodiversity include species abundance, which measures the number of individuals of each species in a particular area, and species evenness, which measures the relative abundance of different species in an area.

To grow biodiversity, it’s important to create a variety of habitats, such as forests, marshes, and open areas with low vegetation, and use a large variety of plants and trees.

How does remote sensing work?

Remote sensing is the process of gathering information about the environment and objects from a distance, typically using aircraft or satellites equipped with sensors. The sensors collect data in images and other measurements, which are then analyzed to extract information about the features and characteristics of the studied environment.

This information can be used for various purposes, including mapping, monitoring, and managing natural resources, assessing environmental conditions, and detecting and responding to disasters. Remote sensing works by detecting and measuring different types of energy, such as electromagnetic radiation in the form of visible light, infrared radiation, and radar signals, that are reflected or emitted by the Earth and its features. The data collected by remote sensing instruments is then processed and analyzed to produce images and other information products that can be used for various purposes.

Do you need soil samples from the field to measure soil carbon?

Yes, soil samples from the field are needed to measure soil carbon. Soil carbon is the organic matter in the soil composed of carbon-rich compounds, such as plant and animal residues, decomposed by soil microorganisms. 

To measure soil carbon, soil samples are typically collected from the field using a soil auger or a soil core sampler. The samples are then brought back to a laboratory, where they are processed and analyzed to determine the carbon content. There are several methods for measuring soil carbon, including combustion analysis, which measures the carbon content of the soil by burning a sample and measuring the resulting carbon dioxide, and molecular methods, which use DNA analysis to determine the types and amounts of soil organic matter.

Soil samples are crucial to measuring soil carbon. However, there are partners of reNature that can do carbon measurements by satellite which are less expensive than actual hand-picked soil samples, but these measurements are not yet internationally recognized.

Do all trees sequester the same amount of carbon dioxin, CO2?

No, all trees do not sequester the same amount of CO2. The amount of CO2 that a tree can sequester, or remove from the atmosphere and store in its biomass and roots, depends on several factors, including the species of tree, the growing conditions, and the tree’s age.

Trees that grow relatively fast and have a large canopy, such as fast-growing species of eucalyptus and poplar, can sequester more CO2 than slower-growing species like oak and redwood. 

The age of a tree is also a factor in the amount of CO2 it can remove from the atmosphere. Young trees tend to sequester more CO2 per unit of biomass than mature trees, as they are growing more rapidly and adding more biomass to their structure. 

A seven year old Agroforestry system @ Anauá Nursery

Warning: Cutting down a natural forest and replanting it with a new mixture of young trees is not the solution, as you will still destroy nature.

How do you calculate the amount of carbon sequestered? 

The amount of carbon sequestered by trees and other vegetation can be calculated by measuring the biomass of the plant material, which includes the stems, leaves, branches, roots, and other organic matter, and determining the carbon content of the biomass. This is done by analyzing the carbon content of samples of the plant material in a laboratory or by using allometric equations, which are mathematical models that use the size and structure of the plant to estimate its carbon content.

Once the carbon content of the plant material has been determined, it can be used to calculate the total amount of carbon stored in the plant and the soil. This is usually done by multiplying the carbon content by the weight or volume of the plant material, taking into account any changes in the biomass over time due to growth, decomposition, or other processes.

Overall, calculating the amount of carbon sequestered requires careful measurement and analysis, taking into account the species of plant, the growing conditions, and any changes in the biomass over time. These calculations can provide important information for carbon management and mitigation efforts aimed at reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Can you calculate biomass through remote sensing?

Yes, it is possible to estimate biomass using remote sensing techniques. Remote sensing involves using various technologies, such as aerial or satellite-based sensors, to gather data about the Earth’s surface and its features, including vegetation.

There are several methods for using remote sensing to estimate biomass, including:

  • Optical remote sensing: This method uses visible and near-infrared (NIR) light to measure the amount of vegetation cover, including the amount of leaves and branches, and to estimate the total biomass of the vegetation.
  • Lidar remote sensing: This method uses laser pulses to measure the height and structure of vegetation, which can then be used to estimate the biomass of the vegetation.
  • Radar remote sensing: This method uses microwave radiation to penetrate the vegetation canopy and measure the structure and density of the vegetation, which can be used to estimate the biomass.

Remote sensing can provide a cost-effective and efficient way to estimate the biomass of large areas of vegetation, making it a valuable tool for monitoring changes in vegetation cover and biomass over time, and for studying the relationship between biomass and other environmental factors, such as climate and land use.

However, it is important to note that remote sensing methods are not always precise, and that the accuracy of biomass estimates can be affected by several factors, including the quality of the data, the type of remote sensing technology used, and the presence of other features on the land surface, such as buildings or water bodies. It is therefore recommended to validate remote sensing estimates using ground-based measurements, such as direct biomass measurements or soil sampling, to ensure their accuracy.