Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting bio-sequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.
Regenerative agriculture is not a specific practice itself. Rather, proponents of regenerative agriculture use a variety of sustainable agriculture techniques in combination. Practices include recycling as much farm waste as possible and adding composted material from sources outside the farm. Regenerative agriculture on small farms and gardens is often based on philosophies like permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, keyline design, and holistic management. Large farms are also increasingly adopting such techniques, and often use “no-till” and/or “reduced till” practices.
As soil health improves, input requirements may decrease, and crop yields may increase as soils are more resilient against extreme weather and harbour fewer pests and pathogens. Regenerative agriculture mitigates climate change through carbon dioxide removal, i.e. it draws carbon from the atmosphere and sequesters it.
Recent developments (since 2010)
Indigenous cultures have long been privy to the innate knowledge of many of regenerative agriculture’s techniques. These practices have existed for centuries, but the term itself has only been around for some decades, and as of late, has increasingly showed up in academic research since the early to mid-2010s in the fields of environmental science, plant science, and ecology. As the term expands in use, many books have been published on the topic and several organizations started to promote regenerative agriculture techniques.
Allan Savory gave a TED talk on fighting and reversing climate change in 2013. He also launched The Savory Institute, which educates farmers on methods of holistic land management. Abe Collins created LandStream to monitor ecosystem performance in regenerative agriculture farms. Eric Toensmeier had a book published on the subject in 2016. However, researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands found there to be no consistent definition of what people referencing “regenerative agriculture” meant. They also found that most of the work around this topic were instead the authors’ attempt at shaping what regenerative agriculture meant.
Founded in 2013, non-profit Kiss the Ground was one of the first to publicize the term to a broader audience. Today the group runs a series of media, farmland, education, and policy programs to raise awareness around soil health and support farmers who aim to transition from conventional to regenerative land management practices. The film Kiss the Ground, executive produced by Julian Lennon and Gisele Bündchen and narrated by Woody Harrelson, was released in 2020. Soil Health Academy and Farmers Footprint are among other educational platforms based in the United States.
In February 2021, the regenerative agriculture market gained traction after Joe Biden’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made reference to it during his Senate Confirmation hearing. Vilsack stated in the hearing, “It is a great tool for us to create the kind of structure that will inform future farm bills about what will encourage carbon sequestration, what will encourage precision agriculture, what will encourage soil health and regenerative agricultural practices.” After this announcement from the Biden Administration, several national and international corporations announced initiatives into regenerative agriculture.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register
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