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What is
Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative Agriculture consists of farming and grazing practices that can, among its many other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. The results? Healthier food, carbon sequestration, reduced erosion of soils and improved water quality.

Soybeans begin to show through cut wheat in a field protected by a living shoreline of trees along the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Photo by Lynda Richardson, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land-management practice that uses the power of photosynthesis in plants to sequester carbon in the soil while improving soil health, crop yields, water resilience, and nutrient density. It also can improve eco-system biodiversity; farm and rural community economics; and food security through increased yields and local production.

The world’s soils store several times the amount carbon as the atmosphere, acting as a natural “carbon sink.” But globally, soil carbon stocks have been declining as a result of factors such as the conversion of native landscapes to croplands and overgrazing. Regenerative agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them.

The world’s soils store several times the amount carbon as the atmosphere, acting as a natural “carbon sink. - World Resources Institute, May 2o2o

 

Advanced Soil Management Practices
According to Ohio State soil physicist Dr. Rattan Lal, “A mere 2 percent increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions [currently] going into the atmosphere."  How can this be achieved?  There are several advanced soil health management systems that accelerate degraded soil into healthy soils and increase the climate, eco-system and economic benefits of soil health.  These include:

  • Soil Armor: Soil covered year-round 
    • Diverse (not single) cover crops
    • Cover crops rolled down or cash crops planted into covers 
  • Minimal Disturbance
    • No-till or reduced till (depending on soil type)
  • Live roots in the ground year-round
  • Plant/Microbial Diversity
    • Crop rotations
    • Intercropping
    • Integration of permanent crops/trees/buffers
    • Addition of compost, manure, microbes, inoculants
    • Reduced or elimination of chemical inputs (fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides)
  • Livestock grazing.

Economic Benefits
Can moving from traditional cropping systems to regenerative agriculture be profitable?  Yes.  According to researchers, there are economic benefits created regenerative agriculture. This study found that farms with regenerative practices were 78% more profitable than conventional plots. This increase in profitability was the result of two main factors: input costs and end markets.

Another  study by The Nature Conservancy estimates that for each 1 percent of cropland with an adaptive soil health system, annual economic benefits translate into $226 million of societal value through increased water capacity, reduced erosion and nutrient loss, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, as well as $37 million of on-farm value through greater productivity.

Barriers to Overcome
Barriers experienced by farmers moving to regenerative agriculture include costs, market forces, and risks of reduced yields. So let's support them!  Be sure to buy locally-sourced fruits and vegetables that are grown sustainably.  Help educate family and friends about the benefits of doing the same.  And, if you are able, work with your church, schools and other institutions to purchase food that is grown regeneratively.  Ensuring there is a market is key to ensuring a farmer's success - and the success of a farmers transitioning to regenerative practices can help avert climate chaos by reducing emissions associated with conventional agriculture practices and creating critical carbon sinks.