Is regenerative agriculture the future of farming?

The benefits of Regenerative Agriculture have been established and proven. Is it realistic and feasible for ranchers and farmers to still be profitable?

The majority of cropland in the United States is monoculture, with a heavy reliance on costly tillage, external fertilizers, and pesticides to maintain productivity.

As a result, interest in regenerative agriculture is developing fast among a diverse spectrum of actors in the public, corporate, and non-profit sectors. This includes the rapid growth of the academic area of regenerative agriculture and the number of practitioner groups dedicated to the practice.

soil with sprout

With governments and food industry leaders on the lookout for ideas that would ensure sustainable food supply, organizations in nations such as the United States, Brazil, and India are seeking to convert millions of acres to regenerative agriculture.

What is the goal of Regenerative Farming?

To increase soil quality and biodiversity in farmland while producing nourishing farm products profitably.

What are the benefits of Regenerative Agriculture?

1. Improved greenhouse gas relationships

2. Balanced water relationships

3. Reduced pollution from agrochemicals

4. Increased resiliency of farms

5. More nutritionally robust foods

6. Increased ecosystem services

Regenerative Agriculture

What do the studies show?

Study 1
https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.28450.1

1. Plant species diversity and biomass increased significantly with the number of regenerative practices employed on almonds and rangelands. 

2. Invertebrate species diversity and richness were positively associated with regenerative practices in corn, almonds, and rangelands, whereas pest populations and almond yields were unaffected by the number of regenerative practices. 

3. Corn yields were negatively associated with more regenerative practices, while almond yields were unaffected by the number of regenerative practices. Profit was significantly higher on more regenerative corn and almond operations."

Study 2
https://peerj.com/articles/4428/

1. Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide-treated corn fields than on insecticide-free regenerative farms, indicating that farmers who proactively design pest-resilient food systems outperform farmers that react to pests chemically. 

2. Regenerative fields had 29% lower grain production but 78% higher profits over traditional corn production systems.

Meet Gabe Brown

Brown and his family run a thriving 5,000-acre ranch in North Dakota and represent a modern-day success story with hard evidence to prove the viability of regenerative agriculture.

His book, Dirt to Soil: One Family's Journey into Regenerative Agriculture, serves as a primer for farmers, ranchers, and legislators interested in learning how to improve an entire farm's operations by prioritizing soil health.

Furthermore, Brown's conversion experience suggests a possible way out of our modern agricultural predicament, in which centuries of mechanical and chemical disturbance have left soils nutritionally depleted and highly vulnerable, trapping farmers in cycles of constant (and costly) interventions that merely perpetuate the underlying problem.

Conclusion

1. Regenerative Agriculture represents a new paradigm for farming and ranching.

2. Gabe Brown was astounded by the instant effects when he began to think of his soil not as a conduit for other living things but as a living entity in and of itself.

References

Fenster TLD, LaCanne CE, Pecenka JR et al. . (2021). Defining and validating regenerative farm systems using a composite of ranked agricultural practices . F1000Research 10:115 .
Giller, K. E., Hijbeek, R., Andersson, J. A., & Sumberg, J. . (2021). Regenerative Agriculture: An agronomic perspective. Outlook on agriculture, 50(1), 13–25. .
LaCanne, C. E., & Lundgren, J. G. . (2018). Regenerative agriculture: merging farming and natural resource conservation profitably. PeerJ, 6, e4428. .
Newton, P., Civita N., Frankel-Goldwater L., Bartel K., Johns. C. . (2020). What Is Regenerative Agriculture? A Review of Scholar and Practitioner Definitions Based on Processes and Outcomes. Front. Sustain. Food Syst.,.
Rattan, L.. (2020). Regenerative agriculture for food and climate. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 75 (5) 123A-124A.
Sambell, R., Andrew, L., Godrich, S., Wolfgang, J., Vandenbroeck, D., Stubley, K., Rose, N., Newman, L., Horwitz, P., & Devine, A. . (2019). Local Challenges and Successes Associated with Transitioning to Sustainable Food System Practices for a West Australian Context: Multi-Sector Stakeholder Perceptions.. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(11), 2051. .

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