The cornerstone of regenerative agriculture is that it not only "does no harm" to the land, but actually improves it through the use of technology that restore and rejuvenate the soil and the ecosystem. Regenerative agriculture produces healthy soil that is capable of producing high-quality, nutrient-dense food while simultaneously enhancing, as opposed to deteriorating, land, and ultimately leading to productive farms, healthy communities, and robust economies. It incorporates permaculture and organic farming practises, such as conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters, and pasture cropping, to enhance food output, farmers' income, and especially topsoil.
Plowing and tillage dramatically erode soil and release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition, they can result in bare or compacted soil that is inhospitable to beneficial soil microorganisms. By adopting low- or no-till practises, farmers avoid physical disturbance of the soil and, over time, raise levels of soil organic matter, so producing healthier, more robust habitats for plant growth and retaining an increasing amount of carbon in its proper location.
Different plants release different carbohydrates (sugars) through their roots, and various microbes feed on these carbs and return all sorts of different nutrients back to the plant and the soil. By expanding the plant diversity of their fields, farmers contribute to the formation of nutrient-dense, diverse, and rich soils that result in greater crop yields.
Rotation and cover crops
If soil is left exposed to the elements, it will erode and the essential nutrients for plant growth will either evaporate or literally wash away. However, planting the same plants in the same spot can result in an excess of some nutrients and a deficiency of others. But by properly rotating crops and deploying cover crops, farms and gardens can infuse soils with ever-increasing (and diverse) organic matter, frequently while naturally avoiding disease and pest problems. Always keep in mind that bare soil is poor soil.
Mess with it less
In addition to reducing physical disturbance, practitioners of regenerative agriculture frequently aim to be cautious about chemical or biological activity that might also affect the long-term soil health. Misapplication of fertilisers and other soil amendments can disrupt the natural interaction between plant roots and soil microbes.
Healthy soil has greater capacity to absorb and store water. This results in less water loss and also prevents soil erosion and runoff. The more nutritious the soil, the more nutritious the food that is cultivated there. In addition, nutrient-dense soil makes plants more resistant to pests and diseases.
By minimising soil tillage, soil is left undisturbed, and as a result, organic matter and biodiversity increase. This boosts the soil's capability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Through biosequestration, regenerative farmland becomes a carbon sponge, limiting the quantity of CO2 gas released to the environment.
Decreased soil tillage also increases water infiltration. As soil remains undisturbed, its surface pores remain interconnected and can gather additional organic matter. Reduced tilling equates to less soil compaction, which increases soil porosity.
Due to the fact that regenerative agriculture minimises the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides, these pollutants are also diminished. Moreover, regenerative agriculture leans on the integration of livestock and plants. In this circular economy, livestock can serve as both fertiliser and pesticide, so further lowering emissions.
Why do we need to switch?
Agriculture is currently the least sustainable activity. Agriculture has a significant environmental footprint. The use of insecticides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilisers is a significant issue. Not only does it affect human health, but it also degrades the soil, contaminates the water table, and causes eutrophication in rivers and lakes.
The loss of the world's fertile soil, biodiversity, and indigenous seeds and knowledge pose a fatal threat to our continued survival. According to soil scientists, at the current rate of soil deterioration (i.e. decarbonization, erosion, desertification, and chemical pollution), within 50 years we would not only suffer severe damage to public health as a result of a qualitatively degraded food supply defined by lower nutrition and loss of essential trace minerals, but we will no longer have enough arable topsoil to feed ourselves.