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Five Simple Principles of Regenerative Agriculture

With only sixteen inches of total precipitation per year, Brown was soon aware of the importance of his soil’s ability to effectively store water.

Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. 

Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that focus on regenerating topsoil, allowing farmers to maintain crop yields, improve water retention and plant uptake, increase farm profitability, and support biosequestration, among other benefits.

 Summing up and through countless tries and many failures but a few successes, he learned that there are five simple principles of Regenerative Agriculture:

Limit disturbance of the soil, be it mechanical, physical or chemical disturbance. If you take one spoon of healthy soil, there are more living organisms than there are people on the planet. Tillage destroys soil structure and causes erosion and synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides all have negative impacts on it.
Armor: Keep the soil covered at all times (cover crops or plant residues). A natural “coat of armor” will protect soil from wind and water erosion, provide food for the microorganisms as well as lower the temperature on the soil level.
Diversity in plant and animal species enhances ecosystem functions through numerous different characteristics above and below ground. Nature is more collaborative than competitive.
Keep living roots as long as possible in the ground. Living roots feed soil biology by providing carbon. This, in turn, fuels the nutrient cycle that feeds plants.
Integrate animals. Grazing of plants stimulates the plants to pump more carbon into the soil, which again drives nutrient cycling by feeding biology. By cycling more carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into the ground, we can actively mitigate climate volatility. It goes without saying that pollinators, predator insects, earthworms and all of the microbiology are incremental to any system.
These principles work everywhere. If there is soil and if there is sunlight, it works.

Dirt to Soil offers readers five key lessons:

How detrimental the current production model with tillage, chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers is in disturbing nature’s system and impacting human health.
The need to move beyond “sustainability” with regard to soil. We have to start to improve our soils.
The importance of diversity in plant and animal species, specifically the benefits of cover crops and rotational grazing.
Making change is all about mindset.
The power of marketing to the end user: currently just 12.6 cents to the dollars goes to farmers, Brown says he captures much more than that by marketing directly to the consumer.

Remember in South Africa- 

  1. No-till/minimum tillage. ...
  2. Soil fertility is increased in regenerative systems biologically through application of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures, which restore the plant/soil microbiome to promote liberation, transfer, and cycling of essential soil nutrients

Climate change is making it increasingly hard for farmers to keep thinking this way. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that without rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over roughly the next decade, warming will trigger devastating impacts such as wildfires, droughts, floods and food shortages.

For farmers, large-scale climate change will cause decreased crop yields and quality, heat stress for livestock, disease and pest outbreaks, desertification on rangelands, changes in water availability and soil erosion.

Researchers with Project Drawdown, a nonprofit that spotlights substantive responses to climate change, estimate that land devoted to regenerative agriculture worldwide will increase from 108 million acres currently to 1 billion acres by 2050. More resources are appearing to help farmers make the transition, such as investment groups, university programs and farmer-to-farmer training networks.

Organic food sales continue to rise, suggesting that consumers want responsibly grown food. Even big food companies like General Mills are embracing regenerative agriculture.

The question now is whether more of South African's farmers and ranchers will do the same.


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