The term “Regenerative Agriculture” is now quite common and can prompt some lively conversations. According to a recent NSW DPI article, regenerative agriculture is about restoring and enhancing ecosystem function on farms and in landscapes through practices designed to work with the landscape, climate, livestock and people.
Ecosystem function refers to the fluxes of energy, water, nutrients and organic matter through the landscape. So, it’s about plant production from photosynthesis, the growth of plants and animals, and the cycling of water and nutrients through plants, animals and soil.
Why do it?
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) identify a range of environmental, economic and social outcomes that are often associated with regenerative agriculture, including:
- enhanced ecosystem services, including increases in soil organic carbon
- improved soil function (i.e. optimised microbial processes for nutrient supply and improved soil structure)
- improved plant root growth and below ground contributions of ‘plant carbon’ (i.e. root exudates)
- increased landscape heterogeneity (i.e. variety of patches and ecosystem types)
- enhanced farming system resilience, recovery and stability under short- and long-term climate variations (such as drought and climate change)
- connecting individual farms and farmers within farming landscapes
- improved life satisfaction or wellbeing.
Of course, many farmers are seeking and even achieving similar outcomes, whether they identify as “regenerative” farmers or not.
What farming practices are regenerative?
There is no definitive list of regenerative agriculture practices. So if something you are doing is improving the ecosystem functions and achieving the outcomes described above, then it is probably “regenerative”.
According to NSW DPI some common regenerative practices are tried, tested and evidence-based, including:
- adaptive grazing management (this can be rotational, cell or strategic)
- reduced reliance on agricultural chemicals (ranging from reduced inputs, to organic amendments, to microbial inoculants, to no inputs)
- integrated pest and weed management
- mixed species planting in grasslands, pasture phases and cover crops
- biodiverse plantings within the farming landscapes, and any efforts to promote biodiversity
- no-till farming
- stubble retention
- water ponding and spreading.
Regenerative agriculture factsheet, Susan Orgill and Warwick Dougherty, NSW DPI.
Key soil carbon messages factsheet, NSW DPI.
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