Over the past years, standard land use and industrial farming practices have caused a decrease in land suitable for food production. Instead of creating soil that’s rich in nutrients, these practices reduce soil fertility.
A growing population and climate related-shocks threaten agricultural productivity due to ongoing land subdivisions and soil degradation as a result of overgrazing, over-cropping, erosion and poor farming methods.
One potential way to reverse the negative effects of industrial agriculture is a system of agricultural principles called regenerative farming. Regenerative farming involves farming practices that rejuvenate soil health.
Regenerative Farming Practices
The following regenerative agricultural practices aim to improve the well-being of our environment by increasing soil fertility, biodiversity, water retention and cleanliness, and soil carbon sequestration.
Rotational Farming and Cover Crops
Cover crops and crop rotation are two of basic principles of sustainable agriculture that lead to greater biodiversity. In this, farmers plant cover crops with no intention of harvesting them in order to protect the soil. Without cover crops, soil is vulnerable to weather erosion, which causes beneficial nutrients to dry out and wash away or blow away.
Additionally farmers should rotate crops by growing a different type of crop in the same location each growing season. This ensures that nitrogen-fixing plants like legumes can add nutrients to the soil that other plants absorb.
Eliminate or decrease tillage
Creating healthy soil is one of the predominant goals of regenerative agriculture, and decreasing tilling is one of the best regenerative practices for improving soil. Tilling simultaneously causes soil erosion and releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Eliminating tillage increases carbon sequestration—a process where plants transfer carbon from the air into the soil—and helps reduce global warming.
Reduce the use of artificial fertilizers
Synthetic fertilizer is not conducive to regenerative systems because it creates an imbalance of microbes in soil, impeding the natural processes by which plants absorb nutrients. This results in an agroecosystem with weak plants that become dependent on artificial fertilizer.
In addition, artificial fertilizer worsens the climate crisis due to the negative effects of chemicals seeping into water sources and the atmosphere. In general, a regenerative farming system aims to preserve a completely natural relationship between plants and soil organisms.
According to research by Research Gate, mulching has demonstrated efficacy to enhance soil health by reducing evaporation, increasing moisture retention, regulating temperature, enhancing nutrient availability and root absorption, suppressing weeds, decreasing salinity, encouraging biological activity, and controlling crop pests and diseases.
Farmers are advised to use organic plant mulch such as cowpea, bracharia grass and leguminous. For non-living organic mulches can be. rice or wheat straw, and palm. Additionally, animal residues from poultry, pig, goat, horse and cow dung can also be used.
Such organic mulching serves to protect the bare soil by building organic matter, conserving moisture, retaining nutrients, minimizing erosion and suppressing weeds.
Importance of Regenerative Farming
- Improve soil health and fertility, which leads to increased farm productivity
- Produce nutrient-dense foods that are free from chemical contaminants
- Increase the land’s ability to filter and retain water, making farms and communities more resilient to drought and floods, while also reducing erosion and polluted runoff
- Improve wildlife habitat and ecosystem biodiversity and resilience
- Increase the nutrients available to plants and naturally protect against pests, reducing the need for costly fertilizers and pesticides; and capture substantial amounts of carbon from the air and store it in the soil, helping mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Improved soil health can lead to higher crop yields, better forage quality for animals, and reduced risk due to increased resiliency to pests, drought, or floods
- Cost savings from reduced use of livestock feed, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and antibiotics can also have a positive impact on farm profitability.
“The continued use of synthetic products has caused soil degradation. This has in turn to the zero biological actions in the soil hence, poor crop performance and increased crop diseases. The only approach to restore the soil back to its productive nature is regenerative farming,” Fred Munene
“Pesticide-resistant superweeds, combined with the climate & biodiversity crises, are threatening the food supply we rely on to survive. We cannot delay the shift to organic and ecologically regenerative agriculture any longer.” Friends Of The Earth
Regenerative agriculture has become the darling of many policymakers, food companies and farmers. Advocates claim a triple win: climate change mitigation, increased profit for farmers and greater resilience to a changing climate. Our view is that the practices grouped as regenerative agriculture can improve soil health and food production.