How regenerative agriculture boosts farm profits while reducing climate change

A growing corps of organic, climate, environmental, social justice and peace activists are promoting a new world-changing paradigm that can potentially save us from global catastrophe. The name of this new paradigm and movement is regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land use.

Degraded land. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

At least 30% of the planet’s land is currently classified as severely degraded, with a roughly-equal percentage being significantly degraded. At a time when a growing world population is intersecting with rising consumption levels per capita, our arable land is losing productivity, thanks primarily to corporate farming and ranching technique that are focused on quartly profits, rather than long-term health.

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, re-mineralizes soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

Regenerative agriculture and land use incorporates the traditional and indigenous best practices of organic farming, animal husbandry and environmental conservation. Regeneration puts a central focus on improving soil health and fertility (recarbonizing the soil), increasing biodiversity, and qualitatively enhancing forest health, animal welfare, food nutrition and rural (especially small farmer) prosperity.

The basic menu for a regeneration revolution is to unite the world’s 3 billion rural farmers, ranchers and herders with several billion health, environmental and justice-minded consumers to overturn “business as usual” and embark on a global campaign of cooperation, solidarity and regeneration.

According to food activist Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.

So how can regenerative agriculture do all these things: increase soil fertility; maximize crop yields; draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soils, plants and trees to re-stabilize the climate and restore normal rainfall; increase soil water retention; make food more nutritious; reduce rural poverty; and begin to pacify the world’s hotspots of violence?

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralizes soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

But these methods are slow, expensive and impractical in feeding a growing population, right?

Wrong. While comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, yields from regenerative methods often exceed conventional yields. Likewise, since these methods build soil, crowd out weeds and retain moisture, fertilizer and herbicide inputs can be reduced or eliminated entirely, resulting in higher profits for farmers.

No-till methods can sequester as much as a ton of carbon per acre annually (2.5 tons/hectare). In the US alone, that could amount to nearly a quarter of current emissions.

Feature photo credit: Adobe Stock

See full 2017 EcoWatch article by Ronnie Cummins.

See 2015 article by Charles Eisentstein in The Guardian.

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