As a food & material scientist, i have worked on regenerative medicine, while the term regenerative agriculture is a new concept and it is something we could all relate to. This will be more popular in the coming years.
Around 40% of the global land surface are the Drylands. Soil microorganisms play a major role in maintaining the soil ecosystem productivity through decomposition, nutrient cycling, and soil organic matter formation. If properly maintained, it is beneficial for agricultural productivity too. Safeguarding natural resources by closing nutrients and carbon cycles in food system is an approach to be practiced (also called as circular food system).
Agriculture sector is a big emitter of carbon-di-oxide, green house gas and mostly responsible for the climate changes that is occurring today. Moreover, plenty of agriculture related chemicals are being used by our farmers thus the soil ecosystem is hampered. Fertilizers also run off and pollute the water streams thus reducing the quality of water.
People are conscious of sustainability impact and are more likely to improve their diet by connecting with the environment and the concepts of food production.
Agriculture is a major cause of land degradation due to bad practices followed during farming. These degradation of soil could be physical (loss in soil structure), chemical (f soil fertility declines), biological (depletion of the soil organic carbon pool), and ecological (disruption of crucial ecosystem functions). For example, intensive tillage based agriculture reduce the soil quality.
A solution for a sustainable food system is regenerative agriculture (RA). Simply said this is about improve the resources instead of destroying them.
Regenerative agriculture (RA) is a farming approach that focuses on the restoration of soil quality to enhance the delivery of ecosystem services (Rhodes, 2017) promoting a wide diversity of soil conservation and restoration practices. It also improves the water cycle. RA help to protect and regenerate the soil, while the food produced will be of nutrient rich and high quality. However, this won’t happen in a day or year, such transition from conventional farming to RA might happens gradually due to socioeconomic, practical, and political constraints.
Considering the example of Tillage. It has a direct negative effect towards disrupting the soil structure & stability through the mechanical breakage of macroaggregates and soil clods, enhancing pore clogging especially during rains, and accelerating surface runoff and soil erosion (Kumar et al., 2014). Hence no till & reduced ploughing are approaches within RA.
Grazing animals, wild life and insects can improve soil health.
Keep the soil covered (and cover the crops too).
Combining green manure and organic fertilizers are suggested to improve the soil quality. However, studies noted that it didn’t had an effect on Nitrogen and Phosphorus content of leaves, but instead had a large increase in the potassium content of the leaf. This Potassium form is considered to be the main source of available potassium and thus beneficial to plants (& related exchange system).
Plant diversity is another approach possible under RA. Rotation of crops enable access of nutrients by different plants as per their needs, making all those plant groups to survive and produce with high yield.
Pilot land trials with RA are carried out currently, while monitoring various aspects related to this is essential to understand the benefits of RA. In this regard, the changes in soil health, insect & bird biodiversity, water quality and farmer’s health and benefits are monitored.
Finally, its all about creating FARMING systems that are in HARMONY with NATURE.