Agriculture for most countries is incredibly significant, with many economies being highly dependent on it. It has helped countries in many ways, from creating employment opportunities, to contributing to National Income, and of course, helping feed the world.
Modern agriculture spans across a fairly wide variety of practices including forestry, bee keeping, fruit cultivation, poultry, dairy farming and more. However, the agriculture system that we all know today isn’t as green and sustainable as it should be. And it certainly doesn’t meet the ethical standards that most people are growing to expect.
At one point in history, before farming technology boomed, all food was organically grown in a way that supported the ecosystem. However, this is not the case anymore in many countries – global farming practices are now massively affecting the ecosystems and the environment.
In 2015, the UN FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) unearthed some frightening facts after carrying out research about modern day farming practices.
What they found out was:
- 24 Billion tonnes of fertile (or 12 million hectares of) topsoil are lost every year
- 25% of the earth’s surface has already become degraded (this could feed 1.5 billion people)
- The UN FAO calculated that there are only 60 years of harvest left (as of 2015)
The UN FAO’s view is that the main problem we face is not global warming, extinction, or any other environmental crisis, but it is the degradation of our soils; which is why something needs to be done to not only prevent any more environmental damage, but also to reverse its effects.
And regenerative agriculture is the solution.
What is regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming practices that improves biodiversity and enhances ecosystems by enriching soils and improving watersheds. Regenerative agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, which helps towards reversing the current global trends of atmospheric accumulation.
Why is regenerative agriculture important?
Regenerative agriculture is an important and innovative way of farming for the reason that not only does this farming system not harm any land, but it actually improves it using technology that regenerates and revitalises the soil.
Regenerative agriculture can:
- Reverse climate change
- Nurture biodiversity
- Restore grasslands
- Improve nutrition
How do we enforce Regenerative Agriculture?
There are different aspects of regenerative agriculture farming practices that make up the whole system. We have given below a brief description of some (not all) regenerative agricultural practices that not only reduce the environmental impacts that modern day farming can cause but also aim to reverse the impacts where possible.
Sustainable aquaculture is a concept of an aquaculture system with sustainable farming practices. As aquaculture varies in terms of species, location and other factors, there are different methods to keeping aquaculture farming practices as sustainable and efficient as possible.
The environmental practices within sustainable aquaculture include:
- Mangrove & wetland conservation
- Effective effluent management & water quality control
- Sediment control & sludge management
- Soil & water conservation
- Efficient use of fishmeal & fish oil
- Responsible sourcing of broodstock & juvenile fish
- Minimising biodiversity & wildlife impact
Agroecology is the study of ecological principles of interactions between humans and the environment, as well as looking at the consequences. With the aim to protect the environment, agroecology is largely based on ensuring the sustainable renewal of natural resources such as water, soil, and biodiversity which are essential resources used for production.
Agroecology works on gradually eliminating the use of chemicals, trying to implement organic farming which improves the health of both farmers (as they won’t be using chemicals) and consumers (as they won’t be ingesting chemicals).
Agroecology studies also assess the root causes of hunger, poverty and inequality and how, when and if technology can be used in conjunction with natural, social and human assets.
Agroforestry is a method of forest production where trees and/or shrubs are grown intensively around and among crops or pastureland. It is done in a way that optimises the benefits from biological interactions which occur from deliberately combining the tree/shrub production with crops and livestock.
Positive impacts of agroforestry:
- Biodiversity; biodiversity is typically higher in agroforestry than in conventional agricultural systems, mainly for the fact that agroforestry provides a more diverse habitat
- Soil & plant growth; it is common in agroforestry systems for naturally growing grasses to create a groundcover (any plant that grows over an area of ground) which helps to protect depleted soils from soil erosion. Agroforestry also stabilises soil and increases crop stability
- Carbon sequestration; Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing carbon and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which helps mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gases. Trees in agroforestry systems can recapture some of the carbon that is lost when cutting existing forests
Use of Biochar
Biochar is charcoal that is used as a soil amendment. It has many benefits including being able to increase soil fertility of acidic soils, increase agricultural productivity and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.
It is also being considered as an approach to carbon sequestration, which as mentioned earlier, is a carbon capturing process that helps mitigate climate change.
Another positive of using Biochar is that it is a stable solid that is rich in carbon and can remain in soil for thousands of years.
Composting is a more well-known agriculture practice, so you probably already know what it is and its benefits. However, if you don’t; compost is decayed organic matter, which can vary from a twig to an apple core. It is essentially food and/or garden waste that breaks down naturally into a nutrient-rich fertiliser that helps gardens grow.
Because compost is used as a fertiliser, it reduces the need for chemical usage which can have an influence on the environment, but also, composting reduces other greenhouse gases such as methane.
Compost is another regenerative agriculture method that can aid in carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change, as well as also being capable of capturing and eliminating a high percentage of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air which often have harmful impacts on our health.
Holistic planned grazing
Holistic planned grazing is a planning process for dealing with the management of livestock production with crop, wildlife and forest production whilst working to ensure the continuation of land regeneration, animal health and welfare, and profitability.
The system was developed by Allan Savory (an ecologist, livestock farmer and co-founder of the Savory Institute) with an approach to help reverse desertification, which is a type of land degradation when dry land becomes a desert, consequently losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.
Savory found that the spread of deserts, loss of wildlife, and the resulting human impoverishment were related to the reduction of natural herds of large grazing animals and the changed behaviour of some remaining herds.
This is why he developed a grazing management system that aims to closely simulate the behaviour of natural herds of wildlife. His system has shown to improve riparian habitats and water quality over systems that usually lead to land degradation.
Tillage is the agricultural preparation of soil by mechanical agitation such as digging, stirring and overturning the soil.
Although till-farming may not be overly harmful to the environment, it causes the soil to dry faster, leading to erosion of the soil and making its fertile lifespan shorter.
No-till farming, on the other hand, is a way to grow crops or pasture from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage, consequently reducing soil erosion, increasing the amount of water that infiltrates the soil, increasing the amount and variety of life in the soil, but most importantly, helping improve the soil’s biological fertility, making it more resilient.
Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme
The importance of a more responsible way of farming hasn’t gone unnoticed. So much so that The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund and Waitrose are both supporting a new project (Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme) to help British farmers improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way.
The aim of the programme is to help farmers make the best use of renewable resources and sustainable management techniques to build soil fertility, control pests and diseases, focusing on ecological farming.
Become part of the solution
Now that you know the ‘what, why and how’ of regenerative agriculture, it’s in your hands to help us spread awareness of it.
The best we can do is act now before it’s too late.
If you are a farmer or own a garden, you should practice regenerative agriculture, but even if you don’t farm, you can still help by buying organic food produce and spreading awareness of regenerative agriculture by sharing this article.
Kiwano can help you towards the first step of becoming a green traveller by providing a list of approved green accommodations for you to stay at and giving you further tips on how to stay green as a traveller.