Regenerative agriculture, at its simplest, puts land management at the center of ranching and farming enterprises. It’s about leaving the land you work in better condition than you found it.
Organic farmer Robert Rodale popularized the term 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 favor regenerative agriculture.”
Soil health is a core concern for practitioners of regenerative agriculture. Structurally sound soils, 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 food production. Some consider it the key to a carbon-neutral world. Others just call it good land 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 runoff and reduces moisture evaporation. It also protects soils from wind and water erosion, and provides organic matter for the soil.
Regenerative ranchers stock according to the conditions of the land. This means destocking in hard times rather than supplementary feeding, which is challenging for ranchers who’ve improved their herds’ genetics over decades.
Reduced chemical use
Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides aren’t only expensive: they are detrimental to microorganisms living in the soil. Organic fertilizers 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, increased soil organic matter, and improved soil structure. There are also reduced labor and machine costs.
Restoring trees and shrubs to the landscape provides shelter for livestock and helps prevent erosion. It also increases biodiversity, as a habitat for wildlife.
Slowing water flow
Earthworks designed to slow the rate of runoff help water to soak into the soil and restore the landscape. Often used to conserve water in dry climates, the same principles can mitigate damage caused by floods in high-rainfall areas.
Technology and regenerative farming
Regenerative agriculture doesn’t mean returning to pre-industrial times. 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, ranchers have never had more knowledge about the conditions of their land. This allows them to optimize ranch inputs and reduce chemical inputs.
Developments in farm and ranch machinery, such as controlled traffic systems and precision-guided seeding, reduce inputs and soil damage. Variable-rate application of fertilizers and pesticides can mean a substantial reduction in chemical use.
Farm and ranch management software
Farm and ranch 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 ranching practices.
To find out how AgriWebb can help you implement regenerative agriculture practices, book a demo with AgriWebb today.