Quick summary: Regenerative Agriculture is a set of farming practices that improves the resources it uses rather than destroying them. It rehabilitates the entire ecosystem with sustainable practices like improved soil health, water management, and usage of fertilizers. Regenerative agriculture practices help to fight climate change by carbon sequestration.
The modern era has considered the entire world to be a single marketplace. Over the past decade, there has been an increase in population, marketplace, production, global warming and agriculture technology. This decade has gone through the wire, recording the highest food production and highest food waste.
These wastes not only end up in landfills but account for the waste of resources that were used to produce such food. Surprisingly both contribute to global warming. The emission of methane gas from food wastes and the absence of sustainable agriculture amounting to the rapid depletion of limited natural resources is indeed a threat to the future.
Agriculture without sustainability is a double edge sword, it contributes to climate change and is also affected by climate change. Global demand for food products is estimated to increase by 70% through this decade. The solution to this issue, clearly can’t be the reduction in the production of food products but how, where and when a particular food is produced.
Agriculture generates 19 – 29 % of total greenhouse gas emissions. Also, one-third of the food produced is lost or wasted globally. Addressing this food loss is critical to reducing the climatic stress on the environment.
A 2020 report found that 690 million are hungry and the world will need to produce 70% more food to feed the 9 billion population by 2050.
If the amount of resources and the amount of process that a food product goes through to be produced is enormous. Intake of resources like land, water, labor, livestock, etc and the processes like processing, storage, packing, logistics, etc amount to the release of atmospheric gasses contributing to global warming. Food is such an essential component and also its volume of intricacies makes it difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Therefore, the need for change in production methods is overdue. Technological innovation in this field such as recording data, efficiency in production, emission reduction, waste management, etc contributes to reducing the emission of harmful gasses.
The balance in production and sustainable methods would create a better future. Over optimizing produce would require nitrogen-based fertilizers releasing harmful nitrous oxide to the environment, this process would also damage the soil and surrounding water bodies. Therefore, over-production or under-production is not a solution. The balance in harvest is the key.
Everything from produce, consumption and wastage produce greenhouse gasses which have to be controlled. Production of meat and dairy produce has the most emission. Food-waste accounts to be second and logistics records the least. And hence, Balance would mean producing as per demand, using less agro-chemical to reduce food waste and capture methane emissions being responsible for use of resources and consumption.
The efficient management of land, water and livestock with achieving food security and managing climate change is called Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA). It concentrates on three main outcomes:
Regenerative agriculture in simple terms would mean the management of the land resource efficiently and sustainably. The Grant defined it as “any and all forms of agricultural practice that actively restore soil quality, biodiversity, ecosystems health, and water quality while producing sufficient food of high nutritional quality”.
Regenerative agriculture not only maintains the soil but also focuses on improving it. Its uses technology and processes which regenerate and revitalize the soil as well as the environment. This derives healthy produce alongside improving soil health, producing quality and dense foods. It includes practices like permaculture, organic farming, crop rotation, no tilling, crop cover, composting, natural fertilizers, etc.
Crop cover is an agriculture practice wherein a farmer plants certain crops with no intention of harvest. These are crops that help as cover crops that help in protecting, holding, and enhancing soil nutrients. Otherwise, the soil is vulnerable to washing out or being blown away by harsh weather.
Crop rotation is a change in planting crops seasonally, farmers plant different crops depending on certain factors which help land fertility and the absorption of nutrients. An example is to plant soya beans which infuses nitrogen into the soil, which acts as natural inputs to corn plantation in the next season.
No-tilling or reduced tilling is practiced not to disturb soil’s naturally infused nutrients. It reduces the emission of carbon dioxide and prevents soil erosion. With the decrease in carbon emission, soil sequestration takes place in turn improving soil quality.
Use of natural manure for pasture land fertility, to allow green grass to re-grow, maintain grazing cycle depending on animal’s natural behavior, and the use of biological and natural enemies to control pests maintains the soil and plant quality. Artificial fertilizers emit chemicals into the water source and pollute the environment. These chemical pesticides are a threat to food safety. Non-pesticide management addresses these challenges and assures safe and quality food.
The entirety of an agriculture ecosystem is designed in a self-sufficient and sustainable way. Nature provides and acts as most agricultural needs. It includes processes like planting trees for shade and to deflect winds, reusing resources, sharing the harvest with working animals, etc.
It is the process of farming more than one crop on the same land. The plant derives benefits and nutrients from each other through interconnections.
Under this method, organic materials are used as natural fertilizers. Farm crop residue, manures and waste are mixed with the soil which provided microbes and enriches the soil. Practices like vermicompost and waste compost are popular.
The implementation of regenerative agriculture might be a tedious and slow process but has to be practiced for a sustainable future. Some of its benefits are.
Regenerative practices will provide the necessary shift to a globally sustainable food ecosystem that will alleviate climate change and the loss of biodiversity. It will also empower the farmers to use sustainable practices for better crop yields and profitability, thereby satisfying societal concerns along with environmental benefits. The aim of food security is only to provide food to all but to provide food with nutrition and quality. Sustainable farmers opt to grow food that is just and holistic in approach.
This holistic nature-based approach will foster better farming communities, healthier lifestyles for consumers, and economic growth. The agriculture sector is a major emitter of carbon emissions and seeks the help of regenerative agriculture to rehabilitate and enhance the food ecosystem.
Regenerative agriculture is a win-win approach leading to resilient crop growth using sustainable methods and at the same time addressing the climatic threat to agriculture.