Understanding the concept of Regenerative agriculture

BuzzOnEarth is an online publication on environmental sustainability and human wellness, focused on creating positive impact. BoE aims to bridge the knowledge gap and act as a catalyst in accelerating sustainable development.

Introduction

The agricultural sector contributes around 80 percent of India’s economy and is one of the most important sectors for growth and survival. Agriculture has seen tremendous changes for years. New concepts and techniques have evolved repeatedly to improve the land and soil’s productivity and ensure a sustainable environment. The statistics state that around 60 percent of the CO2 emissions, which is a leading cause of global warming, comes from agricultural practices. Therefore, such techniques and concepts must be developed, which reduces the carbon footprint and improves soil fertility. You might be familiar with the term sustainable agriculture, which is quite popular these days. It employs such techniques and practices to improve the soil’s health and promote a healthier and greener environment. The concept has been successful in improving the fertility of the land and soil to some extent. But a report by the United Nations suggests that with the current farming practices adopted, we have only 60 years of topsoil left with us. The majority of the food comes from the topsoil, and the soil is a critical player in absorbing carbon and water. Therefore a new set of practices is required to be left with the arable land for our future generations. 

What is Regenerative agriculture?

This clearly shows the need to conserve the soil and think of farming practices to renew the soil. One such concept is the concept of regenerative agriculture. This refers to a holistic approach where the health of the soil is taken care of, and the health of the animals, farmers, workers, and society is considered. Regenerative agriculture involves using such practices and techniques that improve the fertility of the soil and land and help mitigate climate change by rebuilding the organic matter of the soil and restore the lost biodiversity, which will help improve the water cycle and reduce the carbon footprint. It increases the productivity and yield of crops. It improves the health and vitality of the community consuming the food. It also makes the field resistant to climatic changes and enhances the ecosystem as a whole. 

Why is Regenerative agriculture important?

We are fast losing on our fertile lands and biodiversity. We also have a lack of indigenous seeds and knowledge. All these things are a threat to our existence in the near future. The rate at which the soil is getting depleted and destroyed is believed that in the next 50 years, we will suffer from serious public health issues, degraded food quality, harm to our flora and fauna, and no arable land left to provide food for us. Therefore, regenerative agriculture will be very beneficial to prevent ourselves from the situation.

How does it work?

The concept of regenerative agriculture is comparatively new, and it is crucial to understand the way it works. This type of practice does not harm the soil and improves the quality of the soil. It uses such techniques and technologies that rejuvenate the soil and leads to healthy soil, which is capable of producing good nutritious food and also improves the soil at the same time. This leads to enhanced productivity and improved quality of life for the communities and consumers. It is like a dynamic approach that uses organic farming and permaculture and other techniques like no-tillage, crop rotation, cover crops, composting, pasture cropping, etc. all these practices will improve the topsoil and generate more profits for the farmers at the same time maintaining their health.

Techniques and practices involved in Regenerative Agriculture

Let’s discuss some techniques involved in regenerative agriculture, which boosts the soil’s quality and fertility.

  1. Crop diversity– Planting the same crop year after year loses all the soil nutrients and reduces its fertility. Thus, switching to planting different varieties of crops will restore all the nutrients in the soil, prevent it from pests, and enhance soil fertility. 
  2. Integration of livestock– This practice involves using animals and crops in which the by-product of one is used as the input for another. It enhances soil fertility and livestock. It consists of the integration of both livestock and crops.
  3. Keeping the soil covered– The soil should not be left uncovered as it is prone to be blown or washed away, taking all the nutrients and minerals away from the soil, which is important for the crop development. Cover crops can help in this regard as they are planted after the main crop, which helps restore the nutrients lost in the previous harvesting and aerate the uncovered area.
  4. No-tiling- Tillage is a common practice adopted by the farmers to plow the fields and turn over fresh soil. This disturbs the soil’s health and destroys the beneficial bacteria and other organisms essential for the soil’s health. Therefore, not disturbing the soil or no-tilling will help rebuild the soil structure and improve its health. 
  5. Cover crops– The practice of maintaining the roots living year after year is essential as it holds the soil and nutrients. Bare land has no plant roots underground, and without the root, the soil will be of no use and will erode the soil. Therefore, the practice of cash crops or crop rotation can help with it.

Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture

Studies by the Rodale institute show that around 108 million acres of land worldwide are currently being used for regenerative agriculture. The benefits of regenerative agriculture are many, and it is crucial that it is being incorporated into the farming system. Some of the benefits include-

  1. It enhances and improves the soil health- this practice has been developed mainly to improve the health of the soil to yield better crops and increase productivity. Improved soil health will provide food that is more healthy and natural, free from pesticides. It works on enhancing the topsoil, which is what we consume. Therefore, regenerative agriculture will help in improving the health and quality of the soil.
  2. This type of farming helps in making the crop more resistant to weather and other conditions. The crop’s power to be resilient helps increase the soil biodiversity and ensures that healthy bacteria and microbes enter the soil and increase its fertility and effectiveness.
  3. Regenerative agriculture has been significant in combating climate change. The practice has two-fold aims: to reduce carbon emissions and provide a solution to climate change. The statistics show that with such practices as involved in this type of agriculture will help in the sequestration of 100 percent carbon dioxide emissions from the environment. 
  4. Increased farm profitability- around 40 to 50 percent increase in farms’ profits have been seen where the farms have been used for Regenerative Agriculture. The regenerative corn crops have shown a gain of 70 percent than the traditional farming methods. It also saves money spent on chemical inputs. 

Brands supporting Regenerative Agriculture

General Mills, one of the famous brands of bread, granola bars, and other foods, has also supported regenerative agriculture. They have partnered with other organizations to develop resources and train to help farmers work towards adopting soil health practices. 

Conclusion 

Regenerative agriculture has been summed up as 

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… These are the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security, and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”- 

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations

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