What is Regenerative Agriculture?

What is regenerative agriculture? It is a way of growing food that is not only sustainable forever without artificial inputs, but that repairs the damage we have inadvertently caused to soil and natural ecosystems by modern chemical/industrial farming practices.

This Indian farmer is using diverse cover crops to keep the soil covered and keep living roots underground, two practices of regenerative agricultureAn Indian Farmer Trimming Back a Legume Cover Crop Before Planting Corn

Indigenous people around the globe knew how to successfully grow plants for thousands of years without using chemical fertilizers or poisons, or damaging topsoil.

What is regenerative agriculture now? A sophisticated new adaptation of many of these indigenous practices, along with new techniques driven by the latest research on the importance of a healthy, thriving soil ecosystem to plant health and vitality.

How does the soil ecosystem contribute to healthy plants? What do worms and germs have to do with healthy plants and healthy people?

Turns out, everything. Like human gut bacteria that helps us digest our food, bacteria (and other organisms) in the soil help plants "digest" food. It is as though the plants' digestive is system is on the outside of the roots.

Certain bacteria provide nitrogen so plants can develop proteins, and certain fungi bring trace elements to the plants in exchange for the sugars that plants made through photosynthesis. For more on the many functions of the soil ecosystem, read Regenerative Agriculture and Soil Health.

Regenerating The Soil Ecosystem

Soil scientists are discovering that there are many critical symbiotic relationships going on below ground between plants and microbes. Abundant, healthy microbial life is the key to healthy soil that resists drought and erosion, grows plants with natural disease and pest resistance, and burst with nutrition and flavor.

Modern agricultural practices, including tilling and the use of more than a billion pounds of chemicals every year, kill the soil ecosystem. (For more on this, see The Failure of the Green Revolution.) Scientists are just beginning to realize the devastation this has caused, and are studying regenerative agriculture's practices as a working solution for healing soil, and in turn, human and planetary health.

30% of the world's cropland has been abandoned in the last 40 years due to soil decline, and over the last 70 years the levels of every nutrient in food has dropped by between 10 and 100%. (1)

Soil researcher Christine Jones, PhD states that "An individual today would need to consume twice as much meat, three times as much fruit and four to five times as many vegetables to obtain the same amount of minerals and trace elements as available in those same foods in 1940." (2)

It is because chemical agriculture has killed the soil ecosystem that plants no longer have access to the truly deep nutrition that a healthy soil ecosystem provides. It's time to change how we grow food.

Now.

What is regenerative agriculture? It may sound grandiose, but the science is there: it is the solution to soil health, human health and planetary health.

What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
A Side-by-Side Comparison

What is Industrial
Chemical Agriculture?

What Is Regenerative Agriculture?

Tills or plows the soil, which compacts soil, kills worms, microbes and fungi, and drives carbon into the atmosphere

Uses roots of living plants year-round to keep soil loose, produce sugars to feed soil life, and keep carbon underground

Uses salt-based fertilizers that kill worms, good microbes, and symbiotic fungi

Uses natural minerals that are mediated by mycorrhizal fungi and good microbes

Uses poison to kill insects, both pests and pollinators alike (bees, butterflies, etc.)

Maintains balanced ecosystem that keeps pests in check and protects pollinators

Uses herbicides to kill weeds, which drives weeds to develop resistance and drives the use of ever-more-toxic chemicals

Maintains diversity of plant species in food, pasture, and cover crops, which keeps weeds in check

Uses lab-created (GMO) seeds that may contain blended genes of plants and animals, be deadly to insects, resist herbicides or have other unnatural properties

Uses only naturally-bred seeds

Destroys the soil ecosystem and forces plants to depend on chemical substitutes

Regenerates, maintains and feeds the soil ecosystem that naturally feeds plants

Destroys soil structure, leading to runoff, wind and water erosion, drought-intolerance, poor moisture absorption/ retention, loss of fertility, susceptibility of crops to disease and insect attack, low nutrition in plants

Builds and maintains soil structure, leading to excellent water infiltration and retention, drought resilience, retained soil fertility, natural resistance to pests and diseases and high nutrient-density

Drives most carbon into the atmosphere 

Sequesters most carbon underground

Drives small farmers out of business through prohibitively expensive chemicals, machinery, and patented seeds

Frees farmers from unaffordable inputs and puts them back in charge of farm management practices

Grows weakened, low-nutrition food that ships well, appears attractive after many days, and is appropriate for the processed-food and pharmaceutical industries

Grows robust and vibrant food appropriate for people who want to eat fresh, flavorful, nutrient-dense food bursting with vitamins and minerals

Want to Learn More?

Learn how fungi and other microbes work in symbiosis with plants to bring us nutritious food.

Learn the specific practices used by regenerative agriculture to heal soil naturally.



Learn how to apply regenerative agriculture practices in your home vegetable garden.

The Green Revolution promised to feed the world. But it came with terrible unintended consequences.

Check Out These Two Regenerative Agriculture Superheroes

If you're interested in the evolving science of boosting nutritional density in produce, restoring the soil ecosystem, and reversing global warming, check out these two organizations.

Bionutrient Food Association founder Dan Kittredge is a brilliant organic farmer in Massachusetts who has enlisted growers, engineers and scientists in a consortium dedicated to determining exactly which growing techniques boost nutrient density, and how to measure that nutrient density in an easily-implementable way. He organizes the annual Soil and Nutrition Conference, bringing in cutting-edge growers, scientists, authors, and forward-thinking food industry executives together to learn from each other and brainstorm together.

Regeneration International lives its mission statement: "To promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems."

References

1) Christine Jones, PhD: Light Farming: Restoring carbon, organic nitrogen and biodiversity to agricultural soils (www.amazingcarbon.com)

2) ibid,



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