There’s a lot of buzz around about Regenerative Agriculture at the moment. I was left wondering what it’s all about and does it really help the environment?
So, what is Regenerative Agriculture?
The Carbon Underground in collaboration with other companies and organisations worked together to come up with a definition for regenerative agriculture. The aim of this was to provide a basic meaning to the reasonably new term and to prevent it from being watered down, according to The Carbon Underground.
“‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle,” the definition reads. “Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”
According to Regeneration International the objective of Regenerative Agriculture is to continuously improve the land, “using technologies that regenerate and revitalise the soil and the environment.” Practicing regenerative agriculture also helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions which is a key factor in battling climate change. Basically, farmers are aiming to leave the environment in a better position than they find it.
A lot of regenerative agriculture’s core principles are very similar to organic farming. However, their practices are not completely identical. Both methods of farming discourage the use of synthetic chemicals, but regenerative farmers may not necessarily be Certified Organic. Likewise, organic agriculture doesn’t guarantee a carbon drawdown, according to The Carbon Underground. Also, unlike organic food there is no certification as yet for regenerative products.
So, what exactly do regenerative farmers do? There are four main practices that are followed in regenerative farming according to The Carbon Underground document:
Contribute to soil building and fertility.
Regenerative agriculture discourages soil tillage. “Tillage breaks up soil aggregation and fungal communities while adding excess O2 to the soil for increased respiration and CO2 emission”. Aside from carbon loss, it also leads to soil erosion and increased water runoff. Regenerative farmers use biological methods to increase soil fertility, including crop rotation, compost and manure. They avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, which can diminish nutrients and lead to weaker plants.
Increase biodiversity and boost the health of the ecosystem.
Regenerative agriculture aims to protect natural ecosystems. “Building biological ecosystem diversity begins with inoculation of soils with composts or compost extracts to restore soil microbial community population, structure and functionality”. Regenerative farmers avoid synthetic chemicals which can cause plants to become dependent on them and not thrive naturally. Soil samples are taken to ensure they find the right balance of nutrients. Plants are used to ensure beneficial insects are attracted to them.
Improve water cleanliness and retention.
By ensuring synthetic chemicals are avoided helps support less water retention which is another core principle of regenerative agriculture. Farmers use efficient irrigation systems to maximise water use and prevent contamination. Additionally, as farmers work to improve the soil, this supports its ability for water retention.
Decrease CO2 emissions by diverting carbon back to the soil.
Regenerative farmers manage their land carefully and promote a natural, healthy ecosystem, which helps to increase carbon in the soil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. By avoiding the use of synthetic chemicals, farmers are actively helping to combat climate change as the chemicals are often produced using high levels of fossil fuels. Regenerative agriculture involves well managed grazing practices for livestock that leads to better land, healthier animals and lower carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
So, is there any benefit for us as consumers? Well yes, a lot actually! By us as individuals supporting Regenerative Agriculture we are helping to support combating climate change, benefitting local economics, restoring nature, feeding the global population and boosting foods nutrition. Making small changes in our lives can massively benefit our health and the environment as a whole.
Regenerative Agriculture has a bit of a way to go yet but it is most definitely a big step in the right direction for food production.