Regenerative agriculture is an approach to food and farming systems that regenerates topsoil and increases biodiversity. This can help farmers reduce input costs and increase productivity. This approach avoids the use of pesticides and fertilisers allowing soil ecosystems to recover and thrive.
The key principles of regenerative agriculture:
- Minimising soil disturbance
- Maximise crop diversity (you see the diversity theme emerges again and again)
- Keep soil covered
- Integrate grazing livestock
- Seek living roots all year
The grazing animals are healthier and need less or no antibiotics. In turn, the quality of the meat and milk is higher and more nutrient dense. The meat definitely tastes better.
These animals not only have better lives but they give back by fertilising the soil which in turn increases soil diversity and this in turn increases the nutrients in the plant foods grown in these soils.
But perhaps one of the biggest benefits of pasture grazing is the extraordinary amount of atmospheric carbon it locks up in soil organic matter. Christine Jones as founder of Amazing Carbon reports that fertile soils can lock up an incredible 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year. Many believe that soil needs to be at the heart of UK environmental policy particularly in relation to climate change. The atmospheric carbon totals 800 gigatons, while the world’s vegetation hold 1500 gigatons. But the world’s soils holds a massive 2500 gigatons of carbon. Whilst it is crucial to look at reducing carbon emissions, the soil’s potential for mopping up atmospheric carbon simply cannot be ignored. Graham Harvey’s book “Grass-Fed Nation” is a must read if you are interested in this subject.
The Real Food Campaign is a great website that captures many of the issues discussed above – please do check out this website.