Earth or soil is the primary provider for life on the planet. It is the natural resource without which there would be no food to drive the existence of living beings.
So, what will be the outcome when this provider is completely exhausted?
A practical solution to prevent the ensuing crisis is regenerative agriculture. Add to that digitization of such organic practices, and there you have a perfectly adequate and eco-friendly farming means. Farm owners still skeptical of utilizing this innovative and sustainable solution can learn about the farming process and its several benefits first. Here is a detailed guide.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture refers to a combination of sustainable farming techniques to restore and boost the farmland’s ecosystem. It is a farming philosophy meant to heal the earth and regenerate natural resources, primarily soil, instead of exhausting them.
Historically, one of the most concerning issues in agriculture is soil depletion due to industrialized agriculture. The climate crisis in recent years accelerates this. Rising temperatures and altered water cycles result in fluctuating precipitation patterns, affecting rainfall. Usage of intensive farming to compensate for such challenges further disturbs the ecological balance and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Cropin encourages smallholder farmers to adopt agricultural practices based on climate change resilience to curb the impacts of climate change. This involves implementing sustainable farming techniques around water management, fertilizer usage, and other methods that may have lower—or even net positive—environmental and/or social impacts along with technological support. These farming techniques promote soil regeneration and improved soil health, thus minimizing nutrient-enriched top-soil depletion.
Photo by Jan Kopřiva
What Are Its Five Main Principles?
Here is a list of the primary principles of regenerative agricultural practices.
- Reducing Soil Disturbance: As already mentioned, industrial agricultural practices accelerate soil erosion. Therefore, the foremost requirement for soil regeneration is to minimize tillage and diminish soil disturbance.
- Covering the Soil: Ensuring soil armor is crucial to building or regenerating soil. A layer of green crops can protect the soil surface from harmful sun rays and frost and prevent rain from washing it away. It will enhance the soil’s water retention capacity, thus accelerating a better nutrient cycle.
- Ensuring Live Roots in the Soil All-year-round: Planting living roots in the soil for the maximum time of the year provides adequate soil armor. These photosynthesizing plant roots will produce nutrition for the symbionts at the soil food web’s base. In turn, these organisms will ensure fertilizing services for current and future crops.
- Practicing Crop Diversity: Monoculture can strip the soil of its nutrients and further promote erosion. Farming a diverse range of crops can ensure a balance of soil nutrients as different plants mineralize specific nutrients, which provides a balanced diet for the soil. Crop rotation, companion cropping, and cover cropping are the few ways to achieve it.
- Integrate Livestock: Incorporating livestock grazing into your farming practices can amplify the benefits of the previously mentioned techniques. Grazing animals can help soil compost by dispersing seeds and breaking capped soil, hence facilitating gaseous exchange.
What Are Some of the Common Practices of Regenerative Farming?
Regenerative agriculture practices involve the following primary land use and farming practices:
- No-till Farming: No-tillage farming practices are integral to minimizing soil disturbance. This technique involves seeding via disc planters or specialized drillers and pasture cropping. The latter requires sowing dormant annual plants in perennial pastures to promote diversification and improve productivity.
- Organic Cropping: Sustainable farming also involves using biologically-derived pesticides and fertilizers, like manure, animal compost, and plant wastes, as an environment-friendly practice. The ecological benefits of organic farming practices include reduced soil erosion, minimized leaching of nutrients into groundwater, and waste recycling, to name a few.
- Integrating Animal Grazing: Livestock integration can help in promoting soil fertility by eliminating pests and weeds. At the same time, it facilitates animal breeding in natural conditions.
- Perennial Cropping: Planting perennial crops is a soil armoring technique to reduce erosion by carrier agents like wind and water, minimizing the need for chemical inputs and tilling operations.
- Agroforestry/Silvopasture: Agroforestry involves planting trees, shrubs, palms, and bamboos with extensive root systems with crops to protect the latter from strong winds and rain. On the other hand, silvopasture includes intentionally managing livestock, trees, and forage in the same productive agricultural landscape. Both these practices diversify and sustain production for increased social, economic, and environmental benefits.
Benefits of Regenerative Farming to Mitigate Climate Change?
- Eliminating or reducing soil tilling practices also reduces the release of carbon dioxide when the carbon sequestered in the soil gets exposed to the air.
- They increase the soil’s capacity to capture carbon, which contributes to the reversal of global warming.
- Agroforestry encourages afforestation and reforestation and helps transform degraded land into natural carbon sinks.
- Switching to organic fertilizers reduces the demand for their synthetic counterparts that require the burning of fossil fuels for their production. Further, the application of chemical fertilizers releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with significantly higher global warming potential (265 times more by weight ) than carbon dioxide.
- One of the top 5 benefits of regenerative agriculture is improved soil quality and health. Soil becomes visibly stickier with enhanced water retention, aiding in better root connectivity. The soil’s increased water retention facilitates groundwater recharge as well. Enriching soil quality counters the need to clear more land for agriculture, thus preserving existing biodiversity.
- Livestock grazing after crop harvest encourages the conversion of high-carbon residues to low-carbon organic manure. The natural manure distribution of managed rotational grazing also helps regenerate carbon in soils by storing the organic matter and capturing the methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are greenhouse gases that decomposing manure generates.
How Can Agribusinesses Promote Regenerative Agriculture With Cropin?
Cropin’s intuitive platform is packed with a host of features that empower farming companies to encourage regenerative agriculture among farmers.