Have you heard about regenerative agriculture and want to learn more? Check out this short (3:53 min) video!
Thanks to Jimi Sol on Youtube for creating this wonderful video
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming practices that increase biodiversity in soil organic matter.
Currently, most agricultural practices are devastating to biodiversity. Even organic agriculture, while not as bad, still does more harm than good. Regenerative agriculture is a way to reverse this trend, to actually make a positive impact on the land.
So what does regenerative agriculture actually involve?
Answering this question is actually pretty tricky, because the practices that work best largely depend on the land that’s being worked with, so the variety of different practices border on infinity, a bit more than this video can cover.
However, let’s look at three common forms that regenerative agriculture can take:
The soil is full of organisms which are helpful for plants. Some convert soil nitrogen into a plant-usable form. Some bring water to the plants that would otherwise be out of reach. Others loosen and aerate the soil, increasing water absorption and allowing plant roots to penetrate deeper.
When soil is turned over by a machine, most of these organisms are killed, so the crops must rely on chemical fertilizer which ends up leaching into the water. Central to no-till farming is to NOT DO THAT.
Instead of tilling, plant cover crops whose roots break up the soil. Let the worms aerate the soil and bring down nutrients. Keep the soil covered with an organic mulch which will break down over time, adding more organic matter to the soil.
From the release of methane, to clearing forests for pasture land, cattle raising is known for being very environmentally destructive. But this is not inherent to grazing animals!
If the right practices are put into place, enormous amounts of carbon can be sequestered into the ground, soil can be built, and even desertification can be reversed in a matter of years. Here’s how it works:
The growth of grass tends to start slow, accelerate, and slow down again. This middle area is where it accrues the most biomass the most efficiently. If it’s eaten before it gets to this point, its growth will never speed up.
This is what happens with traditional pastured animals: They eat all the grass, which doesn’t have the chance to grow back fast enough before getting eaten again, and we have overgrazing. This leads to soil erosion, drought, and desertification.
But if the animals are kept in a tightly packed herd, like they used to be in nature, the grass has time to grow before being eaten. All that biomass in the grass is carbon that comes from the air. Not all the grass gets eaten, however. Some of it gets pooped on and trampled, which ends up creating the perfect conditions for new topsoil to be built. This ends up happening incredibly quickly.
This is one of the most complex and location-dependent practices there are. I will therefore be over-generalizing.
It always starts with observing a local forest and the relationships between everything in it–the plants, the animals, the fungi, the landscape, the soil, the water–and then re-creating these relationships in a way that’s just as ecologically resilient, but produces more food.
Food forests are often thought of as comprising seven layers: The root layer, the ground cover layer, the herb layer, the shrub layer, the low tree layer, the high tree layer, and the vine layer. Every one of these layers either produces some sort of food or medicine, or is in some way helpful to the system as a whole. The plants are mostly perennials, and include as many native species as possible.
These three examples of regenerative agriculture, plus all the rest of them, all have something in common: whereas in conventional agriculture you seek to create as many of one thing as possible, in regenerative agriculture you seek to create as many relationships between things as possible. You are one of those things! What sort of relationship with the land do YOU want to foster?