Understood as a conversion method, regenerative agriculture focuses on the idea of conserving and revitalizing the soil’s biological processes, a fundamental non-renewable resource in agri-food production systems.
Regenerative agriculture is presented as a proposal that seeks to balance agricultural production with natural processes. This practice aims to regenerate ecosystems and promote sustainability through techniques and methods that respect the cycles of nature.
Regenerative agriculture is a growing and necessary reality. It improves the lives of rural populations, increases biodiversity because it respects the rules of nature and improves the health of consumers. In fact, it looks a lot like the popular agriculture of a century ago, when everything was organic, not pretending to be.
To understand regenerative technology, it is important to understand the need to maintain a balance between consumption and degradation processes and construction or production processes. If this balance is not achieved, systems will degrade.
Keep it all on the ground
The presence of weeds considered “bad” in the soil has a positive effect, as it helps to retain more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soil, in addition to retaining more moisture and more water. This increases the biodiversity of the agricultural ecosystem, consolidates a healthy ecological pyramid and saves the farmer money on agrochemicals and fuel.
Good performance respecting nature
The main objective is to use this farm as an example that demonstrates the achievable performance following a work philosophy in harmony with the laws of nature.
Managing the farm in reverse means avoiding practices like plowing the land. This is due to the fact that the plowing process causes oxidation of the carbon present in the soil’s organic matter when it comes into contact with oxygen, which generates CO2 emissions. Instead, it seeks to maintain a natural vegetation cover and not make structural changes to the soil, thus keeping carbon in the land.
The presence of microorganisms in the soil is beneficial to its health and fertility in an organic and natural way.
Worms protagonists of regenerative agriculture and better than machines
The roots of volunteer plants, earthworms and other insects play a vital role as “tractors” in working the soil. These organisms keep the soil well ventilated and conducive to the growth of crop roots. Thanks to them, a healthy and suitable environment for the development of cultivated plants is guaranteed. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, natural nutrients are used to feed the plants. These nutrients are obtained by grinding the remains of harvest and pruning from the site, as well as from nearby forests and fields. After being crushed, they are composted to be used as fertilizer and also to regulate possible pests that may arise.
Using groundcovers with multiple plants
After harvesting, a roller is used to crush the remaining plants, which has several benefits for the soil. This process works like natural compost, protects the soil from sun exposure, helps retain moisture, and prevents unwanted plant growth at different times of the year. The crop will be planted directly in this substrate without mechanical soil removal.
The use of mulch in agriculture helps prevent water erosion during storms and prevents water evaporation. In addition, these covers provide habitat and food for different species of insects and birds, which contributes to promoting biological diversity. These practices have also been shown to be compatible with livestock, providing benefits to both agricultural production and the wider ecosystem.
This type of crop has a vegetative layer that acts as an efficient water conservator. It was observed that it retains up to ten times more moisture than conventional crops, which leave the soil exposed to the air. The presence of many roots, earthworms and varied vegetation in the soil compensates for the lack of intense rainfall. This type of soil is vital for maintaining an ecological balance in the ecosystem.
Independent agrochemical farmers
Intensive farming can have negative consequences for farmers as they can become trapped in a cycle of dependency. By relying on specific inputs, own seeds and intensive techniques, farmers are forced to become captive customers of certain companies. This can limit your ability to make independent decisions and look for more sustainable alternatives in the agricultural field.
In addition to economically harming farmers, it pollutes and reduces genetic diversity, especially of local crops.
Regenerative agriculture offers an alternative to relying on external suppliers, allowing farmers more autonomy and freedom to work according to their own needs. Rather than being subject to the demands and dictates of agribusiness, this form of agriculture gives them the opportunity to grow their products sustainably and in harmony with the environment.
Agribusiness and its practices, such as overexploitation of the soil, plowing, the use of artificial fertilizers and chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides, actually deplete soil fertility instead of maintaining it. As a result, more investments and efforts are needed to maintain good agricultural production in the long term. Therefore, maintaining crop profitability creates a vicious circle that generates costs.
Regenerative agriculture stands out for its ability to withstand drought and obtain high-quality crops. Furthermore, it plays a crucial role in the ecological transition. Farmers who choose this approach receive support through payments from the European Union, under the 2030 and 2050 agendas.
Crop rotation key for regenerative agriculture
Regenerative agriculture is an approach that encourages crop rotation, taking into account the beneficial interactions that occur between different plants. This means that different types of crops are grown alternately on the same piece of land to take advantage of the mutual benefits that can be gained. This practice helps improve soil health, reduce erosion and promote more efficient use of natural resources.
Regenerative agriculture for silvopastoral systems
Regenerative agriculture promotes the coexistence of trees and herbs in plantations, which facilitates grazing and, in turn, enriches the soil with animal excrement, functioning as a natural fertilizer. This practice benefits both the environment and soil health.
In short, it is essential to promote symbiotic relationships between plants, animals and water to maintain an ecological balance. We must remember that this balance was established long before human intervention in nature.
Regenerative agriculture is having a significant impact on our agricultural landscape. From cereal crops to fruit trees, this practice allows living soils to sequester significant amounts of carbon. This becomes a valuable tool to combat the climate and ecological crisis we face.
The biggest benefits, with composted soils
Regarding the economic benefits, soil management without plowing does not have a great impact on net income, but management with the application of natural compost is what generates the best yield with better production and crop quality.
Conclusion on regenerative agriculture
O FAO has established ten elements that constitute a guide in the planning, management and evaluation of agroecological transitions. They are: synergy, diversity, co-creation and knowledge sharing, efficiency and recycling. In addition, there is resilience, human and social values, food culture and traditions, responsible governance and a circular and solidary economy.
Regenerative agriculture fulfills only a few elements that the FAO highlights and omits others. But it is agroecology that takes care of all the edges that make agro-food production sustainable on a large scale, in the search for the sovereignty of producers.
With information from: https://intainforma.inta.gob.ar/