We hear so much — and rightly so — about our dwindling resources and the need to use our resources wisely. “Sustainable agriculture” is a term that appears in the news and social media, but how many are familiar with the term “regenerative agriculture?” Regenerative agriculture is a model of agriculture that renews and restores the soil, making it it possible to produce highly nutritious food.
The Rodale Institute describes regenerative agriculture as “farming like the Earth matters.” For decades, modern agriculture has relied on synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, excessive tillage and other practices that deplete the soil. These methods have resulted in the loss of up to 75 percent of the soil’s organic carbon — a substance that is vital for soil health. At the same time, these agricultural practices contribute to excess greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which in turn contribute to climate change.
Fortunately, regenerative organic agriculture makes it possible to reverse this destructive cycle. This farming method does not rely on technological advances that are available to only a few industrial farms. It emphasizes practices such as crop rotation, composting and conservation tillage — practices which help to keep carbon stocks in the soil and prevent harmful CO2 emissions. Carbon is returned to the soil instead of the atmosphere, and the replenished soil produces nutrient-rich crops.
Conservation tillage, for example, leaves residue on the soil from the previous year’s crops. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, this practice can reduce erosion up to 60 to 90 percent, improve soil quality by allowing organic matter to decompose, and reduce air pollution form diesel fuel. Conservation tillage is an example of regenerative agriculture methods that return organic carbon to the soil.
We can all take steps to encourage “farming like the Earth matters.” As consumers, we can seek out and buy locally raised, organically grown food whenever possible. We can learn and spread the word about improving our food supply and the way our food is produced.
You can find out more about regenerative agriculture at the following links: