What does Regenerative Agriculture mean?

The regenerative agriculture is focused on improving soil health through increased soil carbon, which feeds the soil life below. During recent Industrial agriculture, the soil quality is degraded completely systematically removing much of the organic matter in the soil, reducing fertility in the process. Regenerative agriculture is an essential part of the global effort to draw carbon down from the atmosphere.

Regenerative agriculture is about improving the soil life, which in turn feeds us all.

Not so long ago, all the food was organically grown. It all changed during the early 1900 by the Green revolution. Industrial and chemical farming became the norm. These practices slowly degraded the quality of soil, food, and health in general. Every environmental problem and health issues can be traced back to modern agricultural practices.

The regenerative agriculture is farming and grazing practices that, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.

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Why Regenerative Agriculture?

The huge loss of soil quality, indigenous seeds, biodiversity in the soil and importantly the knowledge on agriculture is lost by practicing Industrial/Chemical farming. The soil destruction like decarbonization, erosion, desertification, chemical pollution will have a serious impact on health due to the degradation of food. Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. A few of the advantages will answer the question of why Regenerative farming is required?

  1. Regenerative Farming Rebuilds Topsoil and Create drought-resistant soil
  2. Regenerative Agriculture Reverses climate change
  3. Regenerative Farming Protects Water Sources and Diminishes Water Demands
  4. Regenerative Farming Promotes Optimal Nutrition and Health
  5. Food From Animals Raised on Regenerative Farms Minimize Risks of Foodborne Illness and Drug-Resistant Disease
  6. Regenerative Agriculture Prevents Environmental Pollution and Restores Damaged Ecosystems
  7. Regenerative Agriculture Benefits Farmers and Builds Sustainable Local Economies
  8. Regenerative Agriculture Preserve traditional knowledge
  9. Regenerative Agriculture nurture biodiversity
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What are Regenerative agricultural practices or techniques?

Regenerative Agriculture practices are the traditional techniques of farming. All of the practices are in favor of Nature, nothing against it. Just mimicking how Nature works. In India, we call it Natural Farming, all the practices are same. Below is the list of techniques used for Regenerative Agriculture.

1. Stop using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers

Pesticides or fertilizers are good for short term results. But it deteriorates the soil quality over the period. These are harmful to microorganisms and humans as well. They completely kill good and bad organisms in the soil and over the plants. Even the good insects get killed, which will make the plant completely dependent on pesticides.

2. Multiple crop rotations and inter-cropping

Multiple crop rotation is rotating multiple crops in a single year. Usually, farmers have alternate crops in a year, which is not much productive. But Multi-cropping acts as insurance if one of the crops fails. Inter-cropping is having many different crops at the same time. This will enhance crop yield as there will be a symbiotic relationship among crops. It also increases soil fertility, humus formation and increases soil biodiversity. Reduces the risk of losing an entire harvest due to a pest infestation or other causes that might destroy a certain crop.

3. Managed grazing

Overgrazing on the same piece of land will deteriorate the soil quality, the land becomes hard which is not favorable for anything to grow, accelerates soil erosion. Grazing should be carried out different pieces of land in a rotational manner during each season. This will give time for the cover crops or pasture to grow.

4. Diverse cover crops

Cover crops are planted in between the harvests in the offseason which will improve soil fertility and also reduces erosion. Cover crops majorly used to fix nitrogen in the soil and create a microclimate for the microorganisms to thrive. The microclimate will bring down the temperature, this minimizes water evaporation. Cover crops act as live mulching too. The main purpose of mulching is to create humus in the soil, which helps plants overall growth.

5. No-tillage

Farmers can improve their soil quality just by not tilling their land. Till now Agricultural universities used to recommend tilling for better yield, but it’s completely false. Tilling is the process of plowing the field to expose the soil to the sun and also to remove weeds. By doing tilling the carbon which is present in the soil gets oxidized and released to the atmosphere. Also, it exposes the beneficial microorganisms and earthworms for the predators to prey on. This completely destroys the biodiversity of the soil.

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What are the benefits of regenerative farming?

In order to satisfy the growing agricultural demand in the coming decades with today’s industrial practices, chemical inputs is not an option. The nonorganic way of farming increases deforestation, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and high levels of greenhouse emissions.

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By practicing the above Regenerative agricultural practices, there are numerous benefits :

1. Regenerative Farming improves the topsoil

Topsoil is the most fertile soil. Topsoil contains humus, Humus is an aggregation of reddish-black colored matter created through the microbial decomposition of the dead vegetation (leaves, branches) and microorganisms. The decomposition process happened in the top of soil by most aerobic and a little of anaerobic decomposition. Topsoil is a source of nutrients for the feeder roots.

Just by avoiding mono-crops and implementing intercropping or multi-cropping, the soil fertility increases. If the cover crops are absent, the carbon can’t be sequestered into the soil. Pulling carbon from the air and sequestering into the soil is the essential thing for increasing soil fertility.

2. Regenerative Agriculture Reverses climate change

The excess carbon in the atmosphere is bad because of its role in climate change, and carbon in the soil is good because of its role as a fertilizer. Regenerative agriculture is the mechanism, a set of tools and practices, that pulls carbon from the air and transfers it underground—storing carbon and re(storing) agricultural soils.

Even the microclimate which is created from mulching and cover crops brings down the surrounding temperature by a few degrees. This helps microorganisms to thrive.

3. Regenerative Farming Protects Water Sources and Diminishes Water Demands

Regenerative farming addresses both water waste and water pollution problems.  Water pollution can be controlled by not using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Also, managed grazing can reduce water pollution.

Waster waste is when the monoculture crops are grown, a lot of water is flooded and even get evaporated. But while using Regenerative farming practices like intercropping and cover cropping, it reduces evaporation and also improves water retention in the soil.

4. Regenerative Farming Promotes Optimal Nutrition and Health

The nutrient content is more in sustainable organic farming when compared to industrial farming. Soil microbes increase nutrient uptake and plant health.

5. Food From Animals Raised on Regenerative Farms Minimize Risks of Foodborne Illness and Drug-Resistant Disease

Organically grown, grass-fed animals and free-range chicken are risk-free. Carry very low diseases and also good for health. Fewer stress hormones, in the free-range chickens and in their eggs, which eventually improves our health.

6. Regenerative Agriculture Prevents Environmental Pollution and Restores Damaged Ecosystems

Due to crop rotation and the implementation of cover crops, the soil pulls from carbon to the soil. The microbes help to fix carbon and flourish the produce. The ecosystem, which has fewer microbes, increased soil erosion everything gets fixed by regenerative agricultural practices.

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7. Regenerative Agriculture Benefits Farmers and Builds Sustainable Local Economies

Local farmers can get their produce which is full of nutrients and organically grown, can easily market at better prices. People with health-conscious definitely buy organically grown food. Benefits farmers and also help in improving local economies by practicing Regenerative agriculture.

8. Regenerative Agriculture nurture biodiversity

Improving Biodiversity is the major thing Regenerative agriculture achieves. By improving biodiversity, the microbe count increases, which indirectly reduces the pests. Honey bees come a lot, which helps in natural pollination. Lot and lot of birds will cover your land, which eats all the pests in the far.

9. Regenerative Agriculture Preserve traditional knowledge

The traditional knowledge on how to grow, where to grow and when to grow. Everything is lost during the acceptance of the Green revolution. Now the practices of Regenerative agriculture bring back all the knowledge and share the best practices to control carbon in the air, rejuvenating water, increase microbe count and finally increase produce.

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How do you support the Regenerative agricultural movement?

Are you thinking about how can I support the Regenerative agriculture movement, with owning a farm?

You do not have Farm? No, Problem.

You can still support without doing any agriculture. Support your local farmer who is practicing Regenerative agriculture by shopping. Also, get knowledge on how they improve the soil quality or how do they conserve water on their land.

Keep asking other farmers if they use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers, if they till the land frequently, if they cover crop, use organic mulch, rotate livestock, or compost you can get an idea of what they are doing to encourage carbon sequestration on their farms.

You can also make a purchase at your local farmer’s market. The farmers market will be of local produce, which has a low carbon footprint. Making a purchase here is in support of the Regenerative agricultural movement.

Always encourage your local community to practice Regenerative practices on their small garden or support local farmers by making a purchase. Share the knowledge of practices and also bring awareness to how these practices improve your health.

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