Top Regenerative Practices to Introduce To Your Farm
Our planet is facing unprecedented challenges today, and the way we grow food is often part of the problem. But, while most sustainable farming techniques focus only on minimizing harm, one methodology goes further by leaving the land in better shape after each growing season.
This farming philosophy, known as regenerative agriculture, offers real hope for a more sustainable future. It’s easier than you think to implement regenerative farming strategies into your own operation. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
The regenerative farming movement got its start in the 1980s when organic agriculture experts at the Rodale Institute coined the term to refer to holistic farming practices that prioritize building healthy soil.
The four basic principles of regenerative agriculture include the following:
· Promote a biodiversity of plants and animals
· Decrease tilling (or eliminate it entirely)
· Reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and other external inputs
· Graze livestock according to regenerative management standards
At its core, this agricultural approach views soil health as the foundation of a thriving planet. Regenerative farm techniques offer many ecosystem benefits, including promoting biodiversity, improving the water cycle, and sequestering carbon to combat climate change.
Five Ways to Incorporate Regenerative Principles on Your Property
No matter what scale you operate on, there are ways to follow regenerative agriculture principles on your property. Here are five ideas for inspiration.
1. Prioritize Crop Diversity
Biodiversity is a primary principle of regenerative farming. Fields that support a variety of crops better mimic the growing conditions in the natural world and develop healthier soil biomes because of it.
Consider skipping the conventional monoculture planting strategy and instead incorporate multiple species into each garden bed through intercropping, companion planting, and seasonal crop rotation. Ideally, you want a mix of perennial and annual crops growing together at different root depths.
2. Integrate Livestock Into Cropland
Modern farming sees plants and animals as two separate categories of food production—regenerative agriculture works to bring them back together. This better mimics the natural world and the mutually beneficial relationships that exist between them.
Best of all, bringing animals and cropland together eliminates many of the problems associated with both by optimizing nutrient cycling between them. Manure is a primary source of pollution with conventional livestock operations, but it provides in-field fertility in a regenerative farming system.
Consider putting sheep or goats out to pasture after taking in your hay harvest or to graze on your cover crops when it’s time to till them in. Not only will these herd animals produce natural fertilizer to the fields, but their grazing can stimulate the plants to grow faster.