Regenerative Farming: The new buzz words of farming?
You have probably seen or heard the term ‘Regenerative farming’ a lot recently. It seems to be THE trendy term at the moment but what exactly is it and will it help to improve the farming industry?
Regenerative farming and organic farming are actually both similar in nature as they both place a great importance on soil health but it could be argued that regenerative farming takes this to another level. Regenerative farming is all about taking less from the land than we put into it. It is about rebuilding our soils, increasing biodiversity and seeking to reverse or slow down climate change through carbon sequestration.
Regenerative farming actively discourages the process of tilling with the aim of keeping carbon locked into the soil rather than releasing it back into the atmosphere. No till farming protects the life within our soils and due to the minimal soil disturbance can even help in the never-ending fight against weeds by allowing the weed seeds to lay dormant. For these reasons no dig gardening, as it is known on a smaller scale, is becoming more and more popular on allotments and in kitchen gardens.
A living, healthy soil acts like a sponge, holding onto moisture which will benefit us in times of extreme weather systems. By holding onto moisture, our soils will retain nutrients which are needed to feed our plants and soil life and it will also help to reduce soil erosion.
Healthy soils will also help in the fight against climate change by capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon helps to improve soil structure and moisture retention as well as providing food for our soil micro-organisms. Our plants capture carbon from the atmosphere and turn it in to sugars during photosynthesis. These sugars feed the plant and also filter down through the plant roots into the soil to feed the soil life in exchange for nutrients the plant needs.
As with organic farming, regenerative farming also promotes biodiversity and actively encourages the creation of eco systems for insects, pollinators and wildlife. Farmers plant diverse hedgerows and pollinator highways – the thought process is that by creating self-sustaining eco systems we can reduce pests in a natural way rather than resorting to dangerous chemicals to fight them which will in turn damage our soils and potentially even us humans.
Regenerative farming tries to reduce inputs by using natural resources. Compost is made and natural mulches are used. Organic matter is increased by growing green manures. It all sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
Personally, I believe that any trend that focuses on soil health and spreads the word about its importance is a good thing. If consumers place a greater importance on soil health, the government and farmers will have no choice but to eventually follow suit although this will only happen if the population as a whole start to understand and really prioritise soil health.
My concern is that the term ‘regenerative farming’ is not governed in any way. This is not necessarily a bad thing as governance does tend to come at a cost, however a lack of governance could potentially lead to ‘greenwashing’ whereby companies start to use the term in their marketing in a way which can mislead customers into thinking the products they buy have been produced in a certain way or to a certain standard. We have seen this a lot when companies talk about their eco or sustainability credentials and consumers have to be extra careful about reading into the headline. A simple google search already produces a multitude of answers as to what ‘regenerative’ farming actually is and I fear that it could become a throw away term far too soon rather than be a thought provoker that has the potential to really catch on and help to transform the farming industry.
What are your thoughts on regenerative farming? Do you believe the hype?
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