Regenerative agriculture, at its simplest, puts land management at the centre of a farming enterprise. It’s about leaving the property you farm in better condition than you found it.
The term was popularised by US organic farmer, Robert Rodale, in the 1980s. He felt the aim of sustainable farming didn’t go far enough. “By marching forward under the banner of sustainability we are, in effect, continuing to hamper ourselves by not accepting a challenging enough goal,” he said. “I am not against the word sustainable, rather I favour regenerative agriculture.”
Soil health is a core concern for practitioners of regenerative agriculture. Soils that are structurally sound, rich with organic matter and alive with microorganisms, can better retain water and store carbon.
Depending on who you talk to, regenerative agriculture can be either a fad or the future of farming. Some consider it the key to a carbon-neutral world, others just call it good farm management.
Whatever your take on the movement as a whole, it’s likely it embraces practices that could help your operation.
Regenerative farming practices
Livestock graze smaller paddocks at a higher density, before being moved onto a fresh paddock. This means a longer recovery period for plants and reduces overgrazing.
Increased ground cover
Good ground cover prevents water run-off and reduces moisture evaporation. It also protects soils from wind and water erosion, and provides organic matter for the soil.
Regenerative farmers stock according to the conditions of the land. This means destocking in hard times, rather than supplementary feeding, which is challenging for farmers who’ve improved their herds’ genetics over decades.
Reduced chemical use
Synthetic fertilisers and pesticides aren’t only expensive: they are detrimental to microorganisms living in the soil. Organic fertilisers and integrated pest management techniques – such as crop rotation or biological controls – enhance the soil and reduce inputs.
Minimum tillage systems, including direct drilling of soils, see reduced erosion and nitrate leaching, and increased soil organic matter, and improved soil structure. There are also reduced labour and machine costs.
Restoring trees to the landscape provides habitat for wildlife, shelter for livestock and helps prevent erosion.
Slowing water flow
Earthworks designed to slow the rate of run-off helps water soak into the soil and restores the landscape. Developed as natural sequence farming by Peter Andrews in Australia, it’s often seen as a practice for dry climates, but the same principles can mitigate damage caused by floods in high-rainfall areas.
Technology and regenerative farming
Regenerative farming doesn’t mean returning to pre-industrial farming techniques. Many of the principles are more easily applied thanks to the development of new technology.
From soil monitoring to remote imaging technology that provides up-to-date pasture analysis, farmers have never had more knowledge about the conditions of their land. This allows them to optimise farm inputs and reduce chemical inputs.
Developments in farm machinery, such as controlled traffic systems and precision-guided seeding, reduce inputs and soil damage. Variable-rate application of fertilisers and pesticides can mean a substantial reduction in chemical use.
Farm management software
Farm management software. brings together the data from your property to allow more efficient use of resources, meaning less impact on the environment. It also makes it simple to manage and assess more complex grazing systems – such as rotational grazing – which may be a part of your regenerative farming practices.
To find out how AgriWebb can help you implement your management plan, start your free trial here.