By Kaitlyn Ersek on Feb 28, 2019 10:04:25 AM
In 1938, Dr. Charles Kellogg, soil scientist and then Chief of the USDA’s Bureau for Chemistry and Soils stated that “Essentially, all life depends upon the soil… There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.”
100 years later and that quote still remains prevalent to the way we think of agriculture. As new scientific studies are published supporting the benefits of soil health, topics like regenerative agriculture have gained popularity. Once thought of a system for niché farmers, regenerative agriculture is gaining major headway within the agriculture community as a way to improve soil health, while being good stewards to the earth.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
So, what is regenerative agriculture? Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that focus on regenerating topsoil, allowing farmers to maintain crop yields, improve water retention and plant uptake, increase farm profitability, and support biosequestration, among other benefits.
The backbone of regenerative agriculture is a focus on strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. The key is that regenerative agriculture “does no harm” to the land, and in fact improves it, using technologies to build soil health like compost, recycling waste, limited-to-no-tillage, among other practices.
According to a paper by the Washington State University, “there are multiple versions of [regenerative agriculture], each with a different flavor.” For example, The Rodale Institute promotes a strictly organic version and even has certifying programs to guide farmers and buyers. While, farmer and TEDx speaker, Gabe Brown champions a form of regenerative agriculture that doesn’t restrict the need to go fully organic.
Top 5 Benefits Of Regenerative Agriculture
Check out our infographic below for the top 5 benefits of regenerative agriculture, or skip the infographic and keep on scrolling to read it in article form - the old fashioned way.
#1 Regenerative Agriculture Is Focused On Increasing Soil Health
No matter the variation in regenerative agricultural practices, all focus on increasing soil health. According to the Regeneration International, a non-profit organization with the goal for a global transition to regenerate agriculture and land management, “Regenerative agriculture describes farming and organic practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity…” By focusing on building soil health, you can optimize their yield results and crop health naturally.
#2 Maintaining Crop Yields Is A No Brainer?
No conversation around switching regenerative agricultural practices would be complete without addressing yield. According to the Nature Conservancy Organization, regenerative agricultural practices “reduce the risk of yield loss due to stressors, and can bring about a material increase in crop yields and quality.” Other reports from the Rodale Institute shows that yields can be maintained and at times increased (See benefit #3).
We should be open to exploring whether or not we can maintain crop yields with regenerative agricultural practices and there is no better way to get proof than by trying it on a portion of your own farm.
#3 Growing More Resilient Crops
According to the Rodale Institute, yields “under organic systems are likely to be more resilient to extreme weather… in the long-running Farming System Trial, in drought years, yields were consistently higher in the organic system. For instance, organic corn yields were 28-to-34% higher than conventional.” In general, having resilient crops comes back to the soil and increasing soil biodiversity. By ensuring your soils are healthy and teeming with beneficial soil microbes, you can naturally displace and suppress disease.
#4 Improved Farm Profitability
According to several reports, switching to regenerative agriculture can actually increase your farm’s profitability. For example, according to Farmland LP, a fund that invests in converting conventional farmland to regenerative, organic farming, they have seen gross margins around 40-to-50% on wine grapes and single-digit improvements on commodity crops. In another example, researchers Claire LaCanne and Dr. Jonathan Lundgren note that regenerative agriculture grown corn reaped 78% higher profits than conventional corn production systems. And, according to General Mills, it builds farmer economic resilience. They state that “regenerative agricultural practices can reduce the need for expensive chemical inputs.”
There’s a lot of discussion on the importance of focusing on improved farm profitability when converting a farm to regenerative agriculture, and the research on it is variable, yet promising.
#5 Regenerative Agriculture As A Solution To Climate Change.
In a white paper titled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change”, the Rodale Institute states that “we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term 'regenerative organic agriculture.'” That’s a tall order! But, it is one the Rodale Institute has been working with researchers to prove for the past three decades.
How Do Regenerative Agriculture and Holganix Bio 800+ Agriculture Fit Together?
Regenerative agricultural practices like composting, cover crops and no-to-low-till, leave food sources for soil microbes in the soil. By providing food sources for microbes, regenerative agriculture strengthens the soil microbes.
When you combine regenerative agriculture practices that provide microbe food sources, and the diverse consortium of microbes in Holganix Bio 800+, results from both can increase.
Learn more about Holganix Bio 800+ Agriculture by watching our short 8.5-minute video on our university and commercial grower trials.
Dig Deeper Into Soil; Download Our Soil Science eBook
Digging Soil Science 101: Beginners Guide to Understanding the Soil Food Web
We know regenerative agriculture and long-term sustainability of farmland hinges on the health of soils. But, how do soils work? And, what does healthy soil look like? Dig deeper into soil science with by downloading our FREE eBook by Holganix Director of Soil and Plant Science, Dr. Robert Neidermyer.
Download our eBook to explore:
1. How the soil food web supports healthy crops
2. The power behind soil microbes and what they do to build resilient crops
3. Soil types and how to improve the health of your soil