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Regenerative agriculture 101 – understand the basics

The term regenerative agriculture has become unavoidable when talking about sustainable farming practices, but what does it mean and why is everybody suddenly talking about it?

Background

Traditional conventional farming practices have dominated farming systems around the world for decades, which has led to many adverse effects such as depleting the soil, releasing CO2, water pollution, eutrophication, and loss of biodiversity.

Due to more awareness of the environmental crises and soil health, farmers and researchers alike have focused on farming practices that mitigate these negative impacts. Many of these practices are old, traditional principles that were necessary when farming the land was harder, but some of the practices are new and only now widely available due to technological innovation.

At its heart, regenerative agriculture is centered around several core principles designed to restore and enhance the ecosystem: minimum soil disturbance, diversifying crop rotations, cover cropping, and reduction of synthetic inputs

Many other practices such as precision farming, livestock integration, biodiversity borders, addition of organic material, biostimulants, recirculated fertilizer, agroforestry, foliar fertilizer application, companion crops, living mulch, and legume integration can be valuable tools in regenerative farming, but this article focuses on the core principles.

Regenerative core principles

  • Minimum Soil Disturbance:

Traditional tilling practices disrupt soil structure, harm microbial life, and release stored CO2 into the atmosphere. Regenerative agriculture employs no-till or minimal-till techniques, preserving soil integrity and promoting carbon sequestration.

  • Diverse Crop Rotations:

Monocropping depletes soil nutrients and increases vulnerability to pests and diseases. In contrast, diverse crop rotations improve soil health, disrupt pest cycles, and enhance nutrient cycling. Studies have shown that diverse crop rotations can increase crop yields by 10-15% compared to monocropping systems .

  • Cover Cropping:

Keeping the soil covered year-round with cover crops prevents erosion, improves water retention, and enhances soil organic matter. Cover crops, such as legumes, also fix atmospheric nitrogen, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. Evidence suggests that cover cropping can reduce soil erosion by more than 90% and increase soil organic matter by up to 1% annually.

  • Reducing Synthetic Inputs:

Excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides can degrade soil health and harm beneficial organisms. Regenerative practices emphasize the use of organic inputs and biological pest control methods.

Why is it not more widespread?

Despite its numerous benefits, regenerative farming is still not widely adopted. The reasons for this are complex and numerous, including lack of farmer help and education, financial incentives, and supportive policies.

It can be a complicated process to get started with regenerative farming, if you have farmed a certain way your whole life. Additionally, there might be an initial cost of new equipment, consulting, crop varieties, as well as a period of lower yields while the new system falls into place over 3-6 years. If there is no financial help or incentives to get started, it might be too great of an undertaking for many farmers to take the leap. 

Where can I learn more?

Check out our news site where we have an array of articles covering many aspects of regenerative farming in depth. If you are a farmer or a company, who wishes to get started with regenerative farming, you can also contact us to learn more about how we can help.

Study tour to the Groundswell Festival in England

Studytour to Groundswell England

June 24th to June 28th 2024

Again this year, Agrovi and Danish Farmers Abroad organize a study tour to England, where we focus on agriculture according to regenerative principles and agriculture in England after Brexit.

Regenerative practices improve the health of the soil, provides the best conditions for carbon storage, improves the soil’s water balance, and reduces the need for synthetic inputs, while there are fewer machine and labour costs.

It is a large part of Agrovi’s DNA to help build knowledge about cultivation practices within regenerative agriculture, to inform about the benefits and how to work with the challenges in the system.

We therefore invite you on a 3-day study tour about regenerative agriculture, which is both about practice directly in the field and about the development of methods, machinery and crop varieties.

The trip is organized in collaboration with Danish Farmers Abroad, which gives us the opportunity to choose a 5-day version of the study trip, where the first days are supplemented with a political angle “agriculture in England after Brexit”.

Practicalities

The price pr. person is 4.995 DKK + VAT for 3 days or 6.995 DKK + VAT for 5 days and includes:

  • Hotel shared twin room 2 or 4 nights
  • Bus transport Stansted-all visits and hotels – Stansted
  • All meals except during the day at Groundswell

It is possible to reserve single room (an extra fee applies).

The Groundswell ticket must be purchased individually online before travelling. All participants will receive a group discount code.

Registration as soon as possible and no later than May 10th

Program

  • Monday June 24th

    12:00 // We meet at Stansted Airport for lunch.

    13:00 // Bus to Pretoria Energy, approx. 1 hour drive

    14:00 // Pretoria Energy: 21 mW biogas plant working on extruded straw

    18.30 // Dinner in Stamford. We’re staying at The Crown Hotel, Stamford

  • Tuesday June 25th

    08:20 // Departure from hotel, driving time 5 min

    08:30 // Alltech and The Anderssons Centre
    Alltech Crop Science develops i.a. biostimulants, while Alltech E-CO2 works with measuring the CO2 footprint of the individual agricultural company and reducing the footprint. The Anderssons Center is one of the UK’s leading agricultural advice centres.

    • Patrick Charlton, VP for Alltech Europe: Introduction
    • Andrew Linscott from Alltech Crop Science: “Biostimulants use on various crops”
    • Will Streatfield from Alltech E- CO2: “Carbon audit – financial prospects for UK agriculture, how policy and trade have evolved post Brexit, and an outlook for the arable and pig productions”
    • James Webster from The Anderssons Centre“Financial prospects for UK agriculture, how policy and trade have evolved post Brexit, and an outlook for the arable and pig sectors”

    12:00 // Lunch

    13:00 // Leaving for James Dyson Farming, about 1 hour drive

    14:00 // James Dyson Farming:
    Behind the scenes of Dyson Farming with James Dyson (youtube.com)

    ”It’s all about science and mechanics and experimenting”

    14,500 hectares of high-tech large-scale agriculture In harmony with nature. 1,600 hectares are flower fallow, 400 km of hedges, 15 km of stone dykes, and forest. The soil is cultivated with regenerative methods, i.a. grazing with sheep and cattle. A biogas plant produces electricity and heat. The heat is used to heat 5.7 hectares of greenhouses with unsprayed strawberries, which are looked after by robots.

    16:30 // Departure to hotel near Stansted airport, driving time approx. 2 hours

    19:00 // Dinner

  • Wednesday, June 26th

    08:30 // Leaving Stansted Airport by bus headed at Groundswell.

    • We’re spending the whole day at Groundswell the Regenerative Agriculture Festival.
      Groundswell is a practical show aimed at anyone who wants to understand the farmer’s core asset, the soil, and make better informed decisions. It is a two-day event featuring talks, forums and discussions from leading international soil health experts, experienced arable and livestock farmers, agricultural policy experts, direct-drill demonstrations and AgTech innovators.
  • Thursday, June 27th

    • Thriplow Farms, David Walston III:
      Thriplow Farms is a 900 hectares farm located just south of Cambridge, UK. We grow a variety of crops such as wheat, oilseed rape, peas, beans, oats, & grass. Techniques like no-till, companion cropping, bi-cropping and mob grazing mean that we are not just trying to farm sustainably – but to actively regenerate the quality and productivity of our soils.
      David Walston is a Nuffield scholar (2015).
    • Claydon Drills:
      We visit the factory as well as Jaff Claydon’s 350-hectare farm. The Claydons have been working with soil health for decades, in cooperation with NIAB, Harper Adams University and others.

    Dinner, drinks and socialicing at The Beeswing Kettering

  • Friday, June 28th

    • Allerton Project:
      The Allerton Project researches the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment, sharing results of our research through advisory and educational activities. This is undertaken on our 320-hectare demonstration farm based in Leicestershire, United Kingdom.
    • NIAB Innovation Farm:
      NIAB Innovation Farm is a pioneering UK knowledge transfer platform, a unique physical showcase of agricultural and horticultural activity with particular focus on plant genetic improvement, delivered in partnership with academics and industry to utilise, develop or produce plant-derived or plant-based materials.

    16.30     Driving back to Stansted Airport  

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