Regenerative Agriculture is a huge topic of discussion, but what does it really mean? When we think agriculture, we often picture large fields of crops, tractors, pesticides and fertilisers. However, the word regenerative bears a hopeful image of flourishing nature, harmoniously uniting all elements of the plant, animal and human worlds together.
Thus, bringing us the much-needed regeneration part, the urgency of building back what's been destroyed over the last few centuries or so by conventional industrial farming practices.
The regenerative movement applies to us all, even those who aren’t farmers. Choose a bike over a car for some of your trips and avoid factory-farmed food. Support local producers, join a community garden or grow some herbs on your windowsill. Fight for policy change.
All these things will yield a better understanding of the situation we’re in and build new, resilient communities open to innovation.
"Soil fertilisers don’t treat fertility; they kill fertility”. – Dr Vandana Shiva.
Nature’s support network assures that everything growing on the forest floor works. The trees provide shade and shelter for birds and insects, leaves mulch the ground, preventing dry out. Millions of living creatures decompose organic matter which creates organic nutrition for plants and is the king of all communications, the Mycelium, transporting sugars, nutrients, and water between all parties.
If we were to take a lesson from the forest and apply it to the farm, we would get regenerative agriculture, a system that promotes:
Cover crops and mulch
Animal grazing and crop rotation
Composting to rebuild the soil’s organic matter
Restoring degraded soil biodiversity
These practices produce healthy land to grow our crops, increase carbon drawdown and improve the water cycle. Many studies show how biomass-heavy soil has a much greater water-holding capacity than arable land and how organic crops produce better yields than chemical ones.
On the topic of carbon drawdown, it’s worth mentioning the new star among organic gardeners: biochar. Any organic matter, be it a tree, water lily or pistachio shells, would naturally be either composted or burned, both resulting in releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Instead, it can now be put through a process of pyrolysis (extremely high heat treatment without the presence of oxygen), this results into char – a stable, porous carbon structure that ‘locks in’ the carbon molecules and prevents them from breaking down for hundreds of years. The CO2 that would have been released into the atmosphere stays put in the form of char, effectively this creates a carbon sink.