Helping Mother Earth through Regenerative Agriculture
A harsh warning from the United Nations means humans need to re-evaluate our traditional farming methods for those that are more environmentally friendly. Regenerative agriculture is the key.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently reported that the world is at risk of running out of topsoil in as little as 60 years. We need to change our agricultural practices and reduce the current rates of soil destruction if we are to stop this from happening.
A lack of topsoil for farming could seriously affect the Earth’s ability to produce food, filter water, and absorb carbon. Public health will suffer as we will struggle to find sufficient farmable topsoil to feed ourselves. Any food we do have will be inadequate in terms of nutrition.
Moreover, the present agricultural system is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In a recent report on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that 24 percent of global GHG emissions are related directly to agricultural production. Suppose we do not start to make a change now to regenerate the soil on our four billion acres of farmland, eight billion acres of pastureland, and 10 billion acres of forest land. In that case, we stand no chance of stopping the loss of biodiversity in our soil or reducing global warming.
A solution does exist, however. Regenerative agriculture could be the answer to restoring the natural rhythm of our ecosystems and the planet. Regenerative agriculture can lead to more carbon being put back (sequestered) into the soil where it is most needed. It also has the potential to reverse climate change instead of contributing to it. If we could revive the world’s soils enough to store just 0.4 percent more carbon every year, it would offset all human C02 emissions.
If we can restore our topsoil to total health, it will retain water, recycle nutrients, and store carbon. This means we can produce more nutritious food, more resilient crops, and waste less water. Regenerative agriculture is our best chance to improve food quality, protect farmers’ livelihoods, and safeguard the land we depend upon. It is a sustainable system that makes sense for everyone.
There are four basic regenerative farming practices that can be implemented to improve the health of our natural environment. This includes improving biodiversity, water retention, and soil carbon sequestration.
“Regenerative agriculture could be the answer to restoring the natural rhythm of our ecosystems and the planet.”
Farmland that has a rich mix of microorganisms, animals, and plants creates healthy soil, resilient crops, and strengthens natural systems, reducing the need for artificial pest and disease control. Two ways of encouraging this biodiversity are through the use of cover crops and crop rotation.
Cover crops are crops that a farmer plants not to harvest but to protect the soil. If the earth were left bare, it would be more susceptible to weather erosion, leading to beneficial nutrients drying out and being washed away. Rotating the crops each season means nitrogen-fixing plants such as legumes can add nutrients to the soil that the following crops can absorb.
Eliminate or Decrease Tillage
Tilling is the preparation of agricultural soil via mechanical agitation such as digging and overturning. One of the primary goals of the regenerative agriculture movement is to create healthy soil, and decreasing tilling is one of the best ways of doing so. Reducing tilling helps preserve the soil’s natural structure, making it more resistant to erosion and reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Less tillage means more carbon sequestration. This is the process where plants transfer carbon from the air into carbon in the soil.
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Reduce the Use of Artificial Fertilizers
A regenerative farming system encourages and preserves a natural relationship between soil organisms so plants can thrive naturally and need less support from artificial additives and chemicals. On the other hand, synthetic fertilizers work to create an imbalance of organic matter and micro-organisms in the soil. Synthetic fertilizer stimulates bacteria and microbes to consume large amounts of organic matter — more organic matter than the plants can put back into the ground.
This leaves the soil stripped of essential nutrients, resulting in farmland dependent on artificial fertilizers to produce crops. Chemicals from synthetic fertilizer also seep out into water sources and the atmosphere causing further long-term environmental damage.
A Regenerative Grazing System
Traditional livestock grazing systems result in water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and land with low nutrient value. A regenerative grazing system, however, works by mimicking the natural grazing patterns of animals.
Methods such as time-controlled grazing ensure land has time to regenerate itself between grazing periods. The results of regenerative grazing include increased soil carbon deposits, water retention, plant and insect biodiversity, animal health, and improved pasture conditions.
Regenerative agriculture should not just be reserved for commercial farming; when it comes to our planet, every little bit helps. So why not do your bit and incorporate some of these techniques into your gardens. We must restore our soils and help halt climate change. Without regenerative agriculture, the future of global food security and the ability to meet the demands of an ever-growing world population is at serious risk for the generations to come.