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Regen ag 101 - Your guide to regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land management practice that aims to actively restore and regenerate ecosystem health and biodiversity.

What is regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture involves more than just sustainable practices; it is a philosophy designed to completely revitalise the land’s natural resources. By focusing on improving soil health, increasing biodiversity and strengthening the resilience of farming systems, regenerative agriculture is a strategy to improve ecosystem resilience and mitigate climate change.

What are the benefits of regenerative agriculture?

Conventional farming practices like intensive tillage, chemical inputs and monoculture crops have contributed to the depletion of soil health, decreased biodiversity and increased greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, agricultural systems are more vulnerable to environmental stresses, such as extreme weather events and declining water resources. 

Today, many farmers recognise the myriad benefits of regenerative agriculture to address these challenges and restore ecological balance:

Mitigating climate change 
Regenerative agriculture helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and enhancing farming system resilience in extreme weather events.

Healthier, more productive soils
Through practices like cover cropping and minimal tillage, regenerative agriculture improves soil health, increases organic matter, and enhances nutrient cycling, resulting in higher yields and improved crop resilience.

Clean and green environments
Regenerative agriculture promotes sustainable land management, creating cleaner and greener environments, reducing pollution, conserving natural resources, and preserving ecosystems for future generations.

Increased biodiversity
Regenerative agriculture fosters biodiversity by preserving and creating new habitats for plant and animal species, promoting ecosystem resilience, and enhancing ecological balance in agricultural landscapes.

How to implement regenerative agriculture practices

Regenerative agriculture is a philosophy - meaning that while the practices and techniques may vary from farm to farm, the guiding principle remains the same. 

Before transitioning to regenerative farming, you firstly need to assess your current practices and understand the state of your soil, biodiversity levels, and overall ecosystem health. When assessing current practices, you can use organisations like Carbon Capture Shield, who offer soil testing through their flagship Quantitative Soil Sample Analysis Automation Technology. 

Regenerative agriculture can earn farmers extra money if practice change is made within a soil carbon project. By starting a project through organisations such as Carbon Link, farmers can participate in carbon credit markets or receive payments for carbon offset initiatives. 

Education is also crucial in this transition to learn regenerative farming principles and practices. Here are some common techniques to consider:

Cover crops 
Cover crops are non-commercial crops planted primarily to cover and protect the soil when the main cash crop is not growing. Cover crop species like clover, vetch and ryegrass planted between regular crop cycles or during fallow periods help prevent soil erosion, mitigate weed growth and retain nutrients in the soil. 

Rotational grazing 
Rotational grazing involves moving animals between different pasture areas to avoid overgrazing and promote soil health by minimising compaction and erosion. The research project impact of pasture biodiversity and grazing management on pasture productivity, GHG emissions and profit is assessing exactly how rotational grazing affects soil health, greenhouse gas emissions, and farm profitability. 

No-till farming 
No-till farming is a cultivation method where the soil is left undisturbed by ploughing or tilling between crop seasons. Instead, seeds are planted directly into the soil, preserving soil structure, reducing erosion, sequestering carbon, retaining moisture, and enhancing soil health. 

Composting in agriculture is the process of decomposing organic materials, like crop residues, animal manure, and food waste, into nutrient-rich compost which is used as a natural fertiliser to improve soil fertility, structure, and moisture retention. Food2Soil has developed a process that transforms food and coffee waste into fermented biofertiliser that can be used as an alternative or in addition to synthetic fertilisers. 

Agroforestry involves planting trees or woody perennials alongside crops or pastures to create diverse and resilient farming systems. Agroforestry benefits ecosystems by improving soil fertility, enhancing biodiversity, conserving water, providing shade and shelter for crops and livestock, and mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide. 

In the future, suppliers and resellers will likely base purchasing decisions on sustainability metrics, making it vital to monitor and evaluate your progress. Collaborating with farmers, researchers, and agricultural professionals can speed up your transition to regenerative agriculture. Geora connects producers with agribusiness partners through a software platform that tracks scope 3 emissions and offers financial incentives for sustainability and regenerative practices.

Another useful contact is the Organic and Regenerative Investment Co-operative (ORICoop) who can support farmers in the transition by connecting them with like-minded people in the industry. Bright Tide also offers a regenerative agriculture accelerator program to support start-ups and help scale their operations. 

No matter where you start, it’s important to stay flexible and adjust your approach based on feedback and changing environmental conditions. By following these steps and committing to a regenerative philosophy, farmers can transition towards more sustainable, resilient, and productive farming systems that benefit both the land and the community. 

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