Regenerative agriculture combines practices from organic farming, agroforestry, holistic management, restoration ecology, keyline design and permaculture. The goal is to regenerate the soil, improve water cycles, increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystem services and sequester carbon. In addition to restoring land and ecosystems, regenerative agriculture provides a series of benefits for the farmer that can help to improve their livelihoods.
Regeneration differs from other approaches such as restoration and conservation. We have written a piece on this here.
Key areas of regenerative agriculture
Regenerative agriculture can take different forms. Below are the main areas where regenerative methods are used to improve ecosystems and strengthen farmers livelihoods.
Pioneered by Rodale Institute,this are mostly focused on annual crop cultivation. Principles involve cover crops, no-till, composting, no pesticides, no artificial fertilizers and to some extend animal integration.
Planned holistic grazing
This area focus primarily on animal grazing and ranching. Holistically planned animal rotations with increased stock and high frequency increases soil fertility.
Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. Trees have a unique capability to enhance all parts of the ecosystem and can bring added value to the farm enterprise.
Regenerative production landscapes
Mainly inspired by restoration ecology and permaculture. This area involves design of the landshape itself and can be quite comprehensive. Compared to the other areas this one is the most complex, but also the one with highest regenerative potential.
At Regen Farmer our current focus is on regenerative agroforestry. There are several reasons why this is our focus
Soil is a system of complex organic and inorganic components that provide invaluable services to farmers and human society. In regenerative agriculture the goal is to support these systems often referred to as the soil food web.
Water is the single most important nutrient to life as we know it. Without water, life cannot exist. So enhancing water cycles really is about supporting life. Water quality is about building systems that produce clean water for humans and nature. This also means that regeneration is about removing substances that pollute waterways and cause eutrophication.
The silent crisis of our time is loss of biodiversity. Increased biodiveristy is a big part of regenerative agrilculture. Biodiversity is really about robustness. Evolution have resulted in diverse biological life because it is more robust in a changing environment. So improving biodiversity is about building systems that can withstand the extreme future to come.
Through photosynthesis agriculture can sequester and store large amounts of carbon in soil and biomass. This can help to
dramatically slow down climate change. On project drawdowns list of solutions to reverse climate, regenerative farming practices rank high. The rank of regenerative farming practices are: #9 Silvopasture, #11 Organic no-till, #17 Alley Cropping, #19 Planned grazing and #28 Food Forests.
Farm enterprise benefits
By implementing regenerative practices the farmer can enjoy a range of enterprise benefits.
Building soil helps to reduce the need for expensive inputs and bulding integrate regenerative systems diversifies the output from the land. This makes the system more robust to market fluctuations. By implementing Regenerative Agriculture you can reduce input costs and and diversify your outputs to increase overall profits.
Healthy soil and watersheds increases the resilience of farming systems which helps to reduce the impact extreme weather like droughts and floods have on your yield. Adapt your farm to more extreme climate through Regenerative Agriculture and reduce your risks.
Do you some times feel like external factors have a grip on you and that you don’t really have the room to make the changes and projects that you want? Decreased inputs and a more resilient enterprise makes you more independent. This means that regenerative agriculture can help to make you more free to do what you want to.