Regenerating the Land Through Sustainable Farming Practices
The need for efficient farming systems that are resilient, high-yielding, and environmentally responsibility is greater than ever. If we want to keep farming profitably in the future, we need to change our methods. Regenerative farming can be part of the solution. The term regenerative agriculture was coined in the 1980s to describe a way to farm that would combat the increasing challenges of soil degradation, drought, and crop diseases, and the term has since spread across the globe.
Regenerative farming is not just a trend – it’s the future of farming. Many big businesses have realized that as well, and companies such as Nestlé, Arla, and Carlsberg are demanding regenerative crops. Regenerative farming has been shown to increase soil fertility, biodiversity, and resilience in extreme weather conditions such as droughts or excessive precipitation.
The principles of regenerative farming are about improving soil health
There is no universal definition of regenerative farming principles, but at Agroganic, we work with these five core tenets: 1) minimum soil disturbance, 2) improving soil microbiology 3) permanent plant cover, 4) thoughtful crop rotation, and 5) precision farming to minimize input of fertilizer and pesticides.
1. No-till and direct drilling for minimal soil disturbance
Plowing and tilling damage the soil structure and leaves it vulnerable to wind and water erosion. When the soil’s macro and micro pores are destroyed during soil disturbance, it lessens the soil’s ability to retain water and leaves crops more vulnerable during droughts. Soil disturbance also releases CO2 and erodes humus from the soil, decreasing the soil’s fertility.
No-till practices, like direct drilling, protect the soil, leaving the pores intact, letting the water infiltrate and be retained instead of running off. It’s beneficial for the soil biology like earthworms and fungi which both increase the soil’s aggregate forming abilities and are beneficial for nutrient cycling and uptake. Practicing no-till also increases soil organic matter, reduces CO2 emissions, and has the potential to improve carbon sequestration as well.
2. Improve soil microbial life
Soil microbes drive a myriad of beneficial processes that are essential for a healthy soil. Increased microbial activity leads to higher nutrient availability as well as nutrient retention in the soil and incorporating practices that encourage abundance and diversity of soil microbes improves soil aggregation, water penetration, and water retention and decreases soil erosion. All of these factors create more resilient crops as well as regenerate depleted soils.
3. Permanent plant cover with cover crops
Having plants growing in the soil year round improves soil health and lessens carbon emissions. The roots growing in the soil prevent erosion and form macro and micro pores, which improves soil structure and prevents nutrient leaching. The leaves of the permanent plant cover increase the fields’ ability to sequester CO2, and leaving the plant residue in the soil instead of plowing ensures that the carbon stays in the soil instead of being released to the atmosphere, which also increases the soil humus content. The green cover also provides shade for the soil, increasing soil moisture and decreasing evaporation.
4. Thoughtful crop rotation
A well thought-out crop rotation is essential for pest and weed management. Rotating between different types of crops can break pest cycles while helping beneficial microbes in the soil with a more diverse diet. Different crops have different needs for nutrients and are usually vulnerable to different diseases and pests, so rotating which crop is grown on which fields can reduce nutrient depletion and decrease the need for pesticides. Rotating between nitrogen-fixing crops like fava beans and crops that need a lot of nitrogen input, like corn, can also reduce the need for fertilizers.
5. Precision farming to minimize input of fertilizer and pesticides
Regenerative farming is all about improving soil health through various practical methods, but with precision farming, we can also minimize our inputs of fertilizer and pesticides by applying only where it is needed.
Digital tools can create detailed field maps from drone photos which can be used to tailor application of fertilizers and pesticides. This can help us use only the optimal amount and the right product needed for each crop instead of wasting valuable input on the whole field.
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