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What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative Agriculture seeks to rehabilitate the farm ecosystem by using processes that are proven to work by nature.  This is bio-mimicry and it works. It pays great attention to soil health and water management.

Key to the process is the diversity of plant and animal species that use the land and how they use the land.

Regenerative agriculture follows a system of practices that seek to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a heavy premium on soil health and pays attention to water management, fertilility, and more. It is a method of farming that “improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them,”

Regenerative agriculture aims to optimise natural soil health and soil water to boost the ecosystem of the farm . The tools used are biodiversity and reduced soil disturbance.

Regenerative Agriculture as a mindset changes people
from Crop or Livestock Managers to Land Managers

Table of Contents

From the Ground Up - Regenerative Agriculture Video

Regenerative Agriculture Practices

Regenerative Agriculture seeks to increase the yield of land by increasing the soil health and biodiversity which results in an increased biomass in and above the soil.

Cover Crops

Cover crops protect the ground in the “off season” from damage caused by direct UV radiation and rain splatter leading to erosion whilst inhibiting the germination of weeds.

The result is that the organic matter in the soil is increased dramatically. The crop is best terminated using a chevron roller to lay the crop as a mulch layer on top of the soil. The roots of the now dead crop disintegrate in time, releasing their fertility. This leaves channels that allow for increased percolation of air and water deeper into the soil and often the subsoil. It is feasible to re-sow through the mulch layer using a Cross Slot Drill which does not clog up. The Cross Slot Drill has a higher germination rate than most other sewing methods and minimises damage to the soil structure.

Rotational Grazing

Rotational Grazing is a system that emulates nature and is best seen in the large migrating herds of Bison and Wildebeest.

A large herd does not permanently damage foliage. The reduction of biomass is replaced with manure & urine etc. The herd moves on and the pasture regrows quickly in a newly enriched environment.

The key here is recovery time.

Real damage is caused by long term predation using the set stocking systems of the permanent paddock. This quickly selects for low value plants and other “weeds”.

Minimise Soil Tillage

Tillage of the soil, particularly rotating lower soil to the surface will quickly damage the structure and reduce the micro-life of the soil. It also brings old seeds to the surface to germinate.

The quantity of micro-life (fungi, worms and other organisms) is the true wealth of the land. It is the fertility system for the land. Fungi hyphae transport minerals and water to the plant roots and earthworms leave channels for water and air. These are only two examples of a complex system.

The use of a Chevron Roller and Cross Slot Drill does not the rotate soil profile so the damage to the soil is quickly repaired.

Encouraging Bio-Diversity

All life on the land, whether it be plant, animal or microbe affects the land.

As a member of a team, each has its own task to perform. If any task is not completed properly, the whole suffers. This is definitely the case when a team member goes AWOL.

The ideal situation is balance. Nature has designed a system to maximise life. When we work intelligently with nature, we can have large and profitable yields even in poor years. If we instead choose to mine the land, we mine the resources available to the land which reduces our yield rapidly. We then bear the consequences of a broken system.

Soil Health

Soil health is a strong factor for agricultural production.

Feeding a soil just NPK is analogous to feeding a human just steak and chips. There are many components (food groups like greens and chocolate) missing which will lead to deficiency and disease. Many of the man-made fertilisers are only effective within a narrow pH range. Minerals may be in abundance, but because of the pH range, they will be in a form unavailable to crops. To add more is to risk a toxic level.

Further, most of the fertilisers are salt based which damages the microlife of the soil. It effectively creates a form of broadacre hydroponics which is less efficient than nature can provide.

Soil Organic Matter

The amount of organic matter in a soil is a good indicator of its health. Organic matter acts as a sponge for water storage and decomposes to release minerals etc. The space left behind aids the transfer of air and moisture through the soil which further aids the soil life.

Regenerative Agriculture practitioners aim to increase the percentage of Organic Matter to greater than 10%. This is done by selectively managing and enabling the soil flora and fauna.

Soil Erosion

Another event that damages the soil biome is erosion. Poorly managed watercourses loose topsoil and often subsoil down to bedrock. Once erosion starts, it continues at an increasing rate. Precious soil is lost.

It is difficult to grow quality pasture on bare rock!

The History of Regenerative Agriculture

There is no one source for Regenerative Agriculture. It is an amalgamation of techniques used by:

  • Indigenous Farming
  • Holistic Management
  • Rodale Organic
  • Charles Krone’s Regenerative Paradigm

These and more became amalgamated into a series of poly-cropping / no-till, and no or low chemical systems.

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