What is regenerative agriculture?
Inadvertently we acknowledge the importance of solid foundations often in our day-to-day lives. We say “Work from the ground up” or “Put in the groundwork”, and that is exactly the ethos of Regenerative Agriculture.
“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations” – Native American Law
We have (over)simplified RegenAg into 7 key areas for the sake of making it easy to discuss but acknowledge that it will look different from farm to farm. We rely on cutting edge technology and industry expertise to carefully apply this framework at Farming Carbon. The integration satellite or sensor technology helps us to understand the macro ecosystem and increases the farms efficiency, one of the reasons that technology like CropSafe is so crucial.
Starting with the soil we consider the nutrient availability & ways to increase organic matter. Both of these will help the soil ecosystem to balance itself and reduce the need for chemical application.
Crops can be planted to fortify soil structure, to make soil minerals available, to localise the supply chain for food products for other farm animals or in some cases crops can be planted to maintain healthy insect stocks of particular varieties to manage pests that the neighbouring crops would be susceptible too, with minimal chemical intervention.
Wild living things are everything from the soil microbiome to the apex predators. Everything in the food chain has two functions, to eat and be eaten and the benefits of an ecosystem in balance is that when there is enough food for everyone on the farm, a good diversity of wild things keeps your farm resilient, productive and profitable. For example prevalence of a mite that eats fungi, will reduce fungicide costs, or plenty of ladybirds will keep on top of the mites, reducing the need for a pesticide.
If we leave nature to balance itself, it falls into this cycle of eat or be eaten.
Livestock, cattle, sheep or poultry are often touted as the problem by proponents of particular eco-friendly diets. However, I often consider that we have had ruminant animals here for millions of years, and it is only in our modern world where we farm at an unnatural industrial scale that methane emitted by animals is considered alongside the GHG emissions of the industrial world. If we were to go back to basics, it’s important to acknowledge that we need these animals to balance and replenish diversity on our fields. Sheep grazing in Ireland is sometimes referred to as the Golden Hoof because of enzymes in the sheep saliva that stimulate plant growth. However we also are aware that we need these animals to be in natural ecosystems for their impact to benefit other living creatures, not held in industrial mega sheds. Ultimately we need cross-societal engagement to increase the perceived value of meat so that the production process for raising livestock can be more sustainable.
“If I’m not flourishing, I might want to check out the soil.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough – American public speaker, author and minister
At Farming Carbon we advocate for reducing chemicals to increase ecosystem balance, make life easier for the farmer and reduce chemical costs. Modern day efficiency uses tech and observation to better manage the ecosystem & to ensure that precision agriculture principles are being applied. This is better for the environment and for the farmers back pocket.
“Farm practices” incorporates everything from annual planning, crop selection for soil health and problem mitigation right through to investments in renewable, water capture and storage & farm yard design. The degree to which it will be practical to implement these elements will depend on capital available, although there is plenty of advice in terms of “turn off the light” efficiencies, that are free or cheap to apply but can reap reward both environmentally & economically.
Once efficiencies can be attained in all of these six areas, ecosystem balance comes to the party and the more balanced an ecosystem is, the less intervention and working hours required for it to sustain itself.
“A seed needs a fertile soil to grow.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita - Ghanaian and founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation
Farming Carbon is an organisation in Northern Ireland working to evidence the impact of regenerative farming practices on food production, water security, conservation and biodiversity. To do so we work with academia, businesses, local government, environmental NGO’s and innovative agri-tech companies. Farming has the capacity to mitigate the impact of climate change and protect food security for generations to come!
If you want to find out more about Farming Carbon check out their website at www.farmingcarbon.co.uk