What is regenerative agriculture.webp

What is regenerative agriculture?

20 November 2022 | 4 Min Read

Farming and agriculture get a hard time for their part in the fight against climate change and ecological challenges. Agriculture contributes to 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so there is absolutely some valid criticism to be aimed at the industry, however, it’s an absolutely essential part of the human race - we need to eat!

 

With 8 billion people on the planet and a projected 10 billion inhabitants on our planet by 2086, we’ll have a lot more mouths to feed. We won’t solve that just by buying electric cars, so how are farmers and agriculture looking to positively impact the planet? Regenerative agriculture is a piece of this big plan.  
 

What’s the definition of regenerative agriculture?

There isn’t a precise definition, but it’s a collection of practices and methods to produce food in an organic matter focussed nature-enhancing way. Whether this is nitrogen fixing through cover crops, undersowing or volunteering crops, min-tillage, or creating a circular food production system on the farm, the aim is to reduce negative environmental impact, act as a carbon sink in the soil, and let nature do the hard work as best as possible. We can ultimately nurture nature, for lack of a better term.  
 

When did regenerative agriculture start?

Practices of sustainable agriculture have been practised since the beginning of food production, but the trade has had an increased focus on this in the past 20 years or so. The Rodale Institute coined the phrase in the 1980s, and we’ve been using it ever since! Free-range and organic food demands from consumers have made a shift in production practices that subsequently brought more light to the need for kinder practices to mother nature when making food. There are drawbacks to this… you'll need to read on to find out. 

Why is sustainable farming important?

Farming relies upon topsoil which is the ultra-nutritious part of the ground where crops can grow in. We’ve lost roughly half of the topsoil on the planet in the past 150 years. Think back to the extra 2 billion mouths, and then the shrinking area that we can use to grow stuff to feed them. This is a potentially catastrophic issue that humanity has to resolve.  
 

Now regenerative agriculture is the practice of maximizing topsoil, by keeping the goodness and nutrition of fertilizer, organic matter, and the farming processes that touch the soil. Farmers will even consider which way they drive their tractors across their fields each year to protect the soil! 
 

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Will regenerative farming solve all of our problems?

Here’s the catch - we need to feed more people with a reduced land area year over year. We would all love to see our food coming from free-range chickens, and fields of organically produced wheat, and keeping it locally produced at a fair price for growers and consumers. Unfortunately, this ideal isn’t likely to be the reality in our lifetimes. 
 

2 billion extra people is such a vast number, and as a planet, we already struggle to feed all 8 billion of us already. Climate change, extreme weather and conflicts will destroy areas to make food. Our world runs on calories, and we need more of them. But, we must do the best we can to defend the land we have with the resources we have. If producers can unconsciously incorporate the best practices for nature into their crop production plans, we could be looking at a cleaner and brighter future. 

Many are trying very hard, but there is always room to improve - you can take the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest for crops and livestock as an example of poor, but potentially needed bad decisions.

How can I help?

If you’re a farmer, speak to your agronomist about how you can incorporate more sustainable farming practices into your plans! Software, machinery, chemicals, and nature can all be used together to make things better, so there are loads of avenues to explore. 
 

For consumers, well, there’s not a massive amount we can do, but vote with our guts. Choosing locally produced food, looking for sustainably labelled food for your country, and maybe having a think about your diet as a whole. 
 

It’s not all doom and gloom, as scientists and producers are thinking about many ways to solve this big issue, and we’ll be sure to share more of the great findings they have! 

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