As the Earth’s population rises and the need for sustainable food production continues to grow, farmers and policymakers are taking an increasing interest in regenerative agriculture as a positive, adaptable approach to sustainable farming.
Given the damage already inflicted on the natural environment, merely “sustaining” our ecosystems may not be enough to offset climate change and ensure the long-term productivity of farmland. With this in mind, regenerative farmers work to actively change the way they farm by increasing biodiversity, enriching soils, improving watersheds, and enhancing the health of livestock and wildlife.
So, what is regenerative agriculture? Although regenerative agriculture has no universal definition, the term is often used to describes farming and grazing practices that focus on regenerating topsoil, allowing farmers to maintain crop yields, improve water retention and plant uptake, increase farm profitability, and support biosequestration, among other benefits.
The backbone of regenerative agriculture is a focus on strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. The key is that regenerative agriculture “does no harm” to the land, and in fact improves it, using technologies to build soil health like compost, recycling waste, limited to no-tillage, among other practices.
Listed below are the top 5 benefits of regenerative agricultural practices.
Mitigates climate change: regenerative agriculture seeks to increase the organic matter in the soil, which makes it better able to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, meaning it has the potential to reduce climate change instead of contributing to it. Some regenerative farmers say that their grazing techniques can play a significant role in reducing the carbon intensity of agriculture, and while some of these claims have been credibly disputed, some scientists endorse the findings.
Water and soil health: Healthy soil and healthy waterways are inextricably linked. Improving the soil not only increases fertility in a sustainable way but also tends to improve water infiltration. Better infiltration means less runoff, and also less erosion and pollution from the soil being carried away in the runoff water.
Increases biodiversity: Regenerative farming has other demonstrable benefits besides improving soil health and helping to fight climate change. An increase in biodiversity also tends to make an ecosystem more sustainable and resilient. Different plants release different carbohydrates (sugars) through their roots, and various microbes feed on these carbs and return all sorts of different nutrients back to the plant and the soil. By increasing the plant diversity of fields, it creates rich, varied, and nutrient-dense soils that lead to more productive yields.
Increased farmer income: Healthy soil results in healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-tolerant plants, decreasing the need for expensive fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers may also be able to sell regeneratively produced foods at a premium and get a financial return on the ecosystem services they provide.
Secure food future: Ultimately, regenerative practices that build healthy soil, reduce our dependence on agricultural chemicals, create crop resilience against inclement weather, and bolster plant’s disease resistance which will be essential for sustaining high levels of food production and ensuring greater community food security into the future.
For farmers, regenerative agriculture is a win-win, it’s an approach that leads to better, more resilient crops grown using sustainable methods that at the same time fight a crisis that presents a threat to all agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture vs Conventional agricultural process [Retrieved fromhttps://www.eitfood.eu/blog/post/can-regenerative-agriculture-replace-conventional-farming on 2nd December 2020]
Regenerative agriculture [Retrieved fromhttps://noharm-uscanada.org/regenerativeagriculture on 2nd December 2020]