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