Nurturing a plant needs the right soil, adequate water, apposite temperature, right fertilizers, and intensive care. How great would it be if a plant could create its ecosystem and take care of itself? You may or may not be familiar with the term ‘Regenerative Agriculture,’ but it is unquestionably the future of agriculture.
Regenerative Agriculture is not itself a kind of agriculture; instead, it is a term that defines a practice of agriculture that boosts soil health by enhancing soil’s organic carbon. Earth, as opposed to the atmosphere,is a natural carbon sink likewise are the oceans, they retain most amounts of naturally occuring carbon. However, deforestation is diminishing the natural carbon sink is slowly. Additionally, overgrazing and conversion of open farmlands into skyscrapers are taking a hard hit on the atmosphere.
Well, clearly regenerative methods of agriculture is a positive movement to reverse the trend and increase the biodiversity of the top soil and hence saving the planet. This includes following farming and gardening practices using cover crops, reducing tilling, rotating crops, spreading compost (as well as super-compost “inoculants”), and moving away from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and factory farming.
Yet the methods to be deployed primarily are chosen according to the soil type, and considering the vast diversity of the type of soil across the world, the opportunities for regenerative farming are infinite. The most common methods are no-till farming, agro-forestry and regenerative grazing.
No-Till process uses worms to aerate the soil, coating the top soil with organic moulds that will break down in time and add more nutrients to the top soil.
Cattle kept in confined ranches should be allowed to graze section by section of their available grasslands, this prevents over-grazing, hence allowing the grass and other plants to grow naturally in their full life-cycle. This is particularly useful to help aid the natural Carbon into the soil much needed.
While, as urbanisation tends to recede the green covers, we can reverse it by creating food forests. If governments pay attention the forest officers can naturally re-create food forests by simulating the flora and fauna, from insects, worms, bees, flowers, etc. Typically a food forest comprises seven layers: Root, Ground Cover, Herb, Shrub,Low Tree, High Tree and Vine. Each of these produce either medicinal, or edible fruits, flowers which add biodiversity to the ecosystem. The ecosystem of a food forest would include native species, and perennial plants.
The ground feeds the fungi and other vital bacteria imperative to keep the soil healthy; moreover, they also provide nutrients for the plant to grow. The carbon segregated in the earth, also known as soil organic carbon, adds structure to the soil and makes it more water-retentive.
The excess carbon sequestered in the soil can remain in the ground for centuries unless that soil is plowed, tilled, stirred, or dug with mechanical methods for plantation purposes. Retaining this carbon in the soil and letting it do its work of making the soil healthy for plantation is regenerative farming.
Regenerative farming includes unconventional practices such as no-till farming, which is a process that bars farmers from plowing the field, and then sowing the seeds. Instead, regenerative agriculture adopts a technique where the seeds are directly penetrated the soil using a drill and covered using the cover crops. Cover crops are crops grown on the same soil that acts as a shielding layer to the seeds of the main crops drilled in the ground.
Crop rotation is another of many Regenerative Agriculture techniques that involves planting more than tree crops in rotation over several years and using livestock to rotate crops through grazing.
Whether it’s open farmlands or micro gardens in your backyard, climate change has impacted the health and verve of soil everywhere. The constant rise in temperature transforms how plants adapt to the new, heated atmosphere and the way plants grow. Furthermore, the water crisis worldwide owing to the shifting patterns of evaporation, resulting in droughts in some regions and floods in others , are a consequence of climate change as well.
Regenerative farming does not drain soil resources, on the contrary it improves soil health as the crop grows. Regenerative agriculture rebuilds resources and organic matter in the soil, making it much healthier, carbon-rich, and augmenting its water-retaining capacity.
Besides helping farmers replenish the soil and fight climate change, Regenerative Farming also allows farmers to become more cognizant and self-reliant when it comes to regenerative agriculture. Farmers now know how to fight climate change right away and in the right direction, mainly through carbon sequestration.
Regenerative farming gives farmers the power to control and inhibit factors that accelerate climate change and save soil. As per the Rodale Institute, regenerative agriculture can successfully mitigate climate change. There is no need to wait for technological innovation; current technology can implement regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative is modern agriculture that has nil drawbacks essentially. And that is just why some of the most prominent brands as General Mills, are taking a multipronged approach to support regenerative agriculture. General Mills is even setting up micro health academies for farmers to receive education from regenerative agriculture experts. The methods adopt a rehabilitative approach to food and farming systems. Canadian farmers are being offered soil health testing and coaching as part of General Mills’ commitment to regenerative agriculture.
Over 20% of General Mills North American sourcing footprint is under regenerative practices, continuously striving for alternative ways to increase the resilience of both organic and conventional operations.
General Mills defines regenerative agriculture as any method of farming that “protects and intentionally enhances natural resources and farming communities.” While the corporation believes that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Integration of livestock, maximization of crop diversity, prioritization of soil coverage, and the maintenance of a living root year-round are the core principles at General Mills.
General Mills has piloted sustainable agriculture programs across the United States and Canada. All of them support one-on-one coaching and technical assistance to farmers,customized plans for implementation in their operations, soil health testing, farmer networking communities and biodiversity and economic assessments to demonstrate impact on outcomes over time. The study components in each of the programs are based on regional characteristics, commodity-specific realities, and the needs of individual farming operations.
Because the regenerative approach is relatively new and the appropriate metrics are evolving, General Mills invested in self-led digital tools made available to the farmers, and actors in the agricultural supply chain to effectively quantify environmental progress at the farm level. It was designed to help growers understand regenerative agriculture, assess their practices, monitor their returns against key principles and this tool also doubles as a tracking mechanism for General Mills to ensure their goal of 1 million acres of regenerative farmland coverage by 2030 is achieved.
Recently, Cargill Canada announced its Sustainable Canola Program.
Several companies have already signed up to support regenerative farming, and others are soon to follow suit. Regenerative agriculture is the farming of the future that is already here.
Application of regenerative agriculture techniques on small farms is usually by following methods like permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, keyline design, and holistic management. While Large farms often use “no-till” and/or “reduced till” practices.
As soil health improves, many agricultural practices are altered such as, input requirements may decrease, and crop yields increase,soil becomes resilient against extreme weather and harbors fewer pests and pathogens. Due to its constructive farming advantages and immense influence on climate change, regenerative agriculture will soon be common globally.
Today, at SourceTrace we’re happy to share our moment of pride and fulfillment, having made it as the cover story in the Food and Beverage Tech Review.
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