What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative Agriculture has been defined in different ways by many. Here, you will find the complete introduction to Regenerative Agriculture. Find out what it is, how it works, and why we are so convinced about it. Start reading or pick the subjects that you are most interested in.
Sections of this article:
- THE ESSENCE OF REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
- STRATEGIES OF REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
- A WORLD WITH REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
The Essence of Regenerative Agriculture?
While Regenerative Agriculture has been given varying definitions, it offers exciting solutions to the global food system, the wellbeing of the planet, and the wellbeing of us.
In practice, it is a farming strategy that uses nature as a guide. As nature is a sustainable system, a regenerative farm hopes to be the same. By using different strategies, the soil of a regenerative farm retains vital nutrients over time, allowing the farm to work as a vital system.
But how can this impact modern-day agriculture? What are the benefits of these regenerative strategies?
Below is a brief overview of the impacts of regenerative agriculture:
(To see these impacts in detail, check out the last section A World with Regenerative Agriculture)
But how does regenerative farming work, and what are the specific uses of it? In our next section, we explore different regenerative agriculture strategies.
Strategies of Regenerative Agriculture
Below are some of the main strategies of Regenerative Agriculture:
- No-till Farming
- Cover Cropping
- No use of Pesticides or Synthetic Fertilizers
- Integrating Livestock
You may have heard of the practice of tilling soil. By rolling the soil around, farmers let water and air get into the soil more easily so that seeds and roots can grow.9 The practice is also used to keep weeds from growing and to let fertilizer flow into the soil more effectively. There is a problem, however. Tilling causes the soil to lose water,10 nutrients, and microbial populations more easily, causing the soil to be less usable over time.
By not tilling farmland, more water is retained in the soil, as well as nutrients.11 And, when also using cover crops, it increases the microbial diversity in the soil as well. All of these factors keep the soil more reusable over time and keep the crops more nutrient dense.
Picture this: your crops are growing with their very own assistant crops. These assistant crops keep the soil healthy for your crops and protect them from pests and weeds.5 They are, in a way, your crops’ protectors.
These assistant crops are called cover crops. A cover crop gets planted with the crop that you are trying to sell (which is called a cash crop). Rather than being there primarily to be sold, a cover crop can improve the health of the soil, keep weeds and organisms from eating the cash crop, and improve the variety of living organisms on the farm.
No Use of Pesticides and Synthetic Fertilizers
The use of pesticides and fertilizers are a practice used by many modern-day farmers. However, cover crops, livestock integration, and no-till agriculture together provide pest protection services and natural fertilizer in a sustainable way, without threatening the health of people and the environment.
What if farm animals and crops could coexist on the same farm? It turns out that this idea could help global agriculture in many ways.
In this situation, crops and animals can develop a mutually beneficial relationship. As the animals feed on excess crops, their manure improves the health of the soil.2 In fact, it has been found that adding livestock to farmland can increase the nutrient density and microbial populations in the soil.3
In addition, by eating from the land during the crops’ dormant season, animals help to keep pests from building habitats on the farm. These animals also naturally get rid of weeds as well.
A World with Regenerative Agriculture
The soil of the world is degrading,12 13 14 and regenerative agriculture could be a bright light for this issue. By offering the strategies above and others not mentioned in this article, regenerative agriculture can create more sustainable farms that are filled with life and nourishment. The effects of this are far-reaching, and a world with regenerative agriculture is a world we would like to witness! Below are some of the positive impacts that regenerative agriculture has on the earth and human wellness:
- Feeding People Who Are Malnourished
- Protecting Against Deforestation
- Keeping Crops Nutrient-Dense
- Improving Biodiversity
- Improving Climate Change
- Can Improve Crop Sales
Feeding People Who Are Malnourished
Fifty percent of people who are malnourished in the world are farmers, and an additional group of people who are malnourished work on farms.4
Unfortunately, some of these farmers’ lands lose soil health over time by not using regenerative practices.
By helping these farmers and other farmers to use their land more efficiently over the long term, these farmers can have more access to not only more food, but more nutrient-dense food.
Protecting Against Deforestation
As of 2020, 38% of the land of earth was used for farming, whether for livestock or crops.15
Many of these farming practices are depleting the soil over time, causing farmers to deforest more land. This threatens a lot of the life that live in those forests, including some indigenous tribes. Furthermore, deforestation threatens land that pulls a lot of carbon dioxide out of the air, further contributing to climate change.
With Regenerative Agriculture, we hope to work towards a world with no more depletion of the soil. Farmers can reuse their land effectively, keeping natural land protected and safe!
Keeping Crops Nutrient-Dense
The practice of cover cropping has been shown to improve the density of nutrients in crops more than conventionally farmed ones. Specifically, these strategies increased the levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are all important to our health and wellbeing.16
A regenerative model could improve human health and wellbeing in this way, as well as provide more nutrition for people who are malnourished globally!
Not only does improving the health of the soil help to prevent soil erosion, but it also allows for a greater variety of living organisms to live on the regenerative farm.17 While greater biodiversity is a factor in the success of the regenerative farm, it also paints a hopeful picture for the future of nature. Farms do not have to be separate from nature: they can be habitats for living organisms as well.
Improving Climate Change
Did you know that healthy soil pulls more carbon dioxide out of the air than unhealthy soil? This is because carbon makes up the organic matter of soil, which directly helps the soil retain water and nutrients. 18 19
By using regenerative strategies, not only could more protected forested land pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but the farms themselves could too.
Can Improve Crop Sales
The main goal of many modern-day farming practices is to maximize profits. However, according to LaCanne and Lundgren, corn fields that were regenerative produced 29% less grain, but their profits were 78% higher.20 How can this be? It’s because their profits were more correlated with the organic matter in the soil than crop yield. The health of the soil was more valuable to selling the crops than the crops themselves.