Sustainable Agriculture Vs Regenerative Agriculture
While the goal of sustainable and regenerative agriculture may seem different, the methods are often similar. Practices like rotating crops, minimizing soil disturbance and using few (if any) synthetic chemicals are essential to both farming methods.
Regenerative practices can also reduce the risk of extreme weather associated with climate change, as healthy soils retain moisture longer during droughts and have a greater capacity to soak up floodwaters.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
The goal of sustainable agriculture is to produce food and fiber without degrading natural resources. This is accomplished by preserving biodiversity, building healthy soils, and improving watersheds. It also includes promoting environmental, social and economic justice.
Sustainable farmers use a variety of methods to achieve these goals, including reduced tillage, crop rotations, cover crops, and rotational grazing. They also try to increase biodiversity on their land by planting different types of seeds, using multiple species of plants in pastures and increasing the diversity of livestock.
Some farmers go further than sustainable farming by practicing regenerative agriculture, which is a more comprehensive approach to sustainability. These farmers strive to improve soil health by increasing biodiversity, enhancing the water supply, and reducing the need for artificial inputs like herbicides and fertilizers. They also seek to reduce their impact on climate change by capturing and storing carbon in the ground. By doing this, they help to reverse current global trends of atmospheric carbon accumulation.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture (also known as regen ag) is a broad set of earth-friendly farming practices focused on improving soil health and biodiversity. Regenerative practices aim to rebalance nutrient cycles and reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which disrupt natural ecosystems and harm soil organisms.
Regenerative farmers focus on keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible, which stabilizes the soil and cycles nutrients and water. They also focus on adding organic matter to the soil and minimizing erosion. This helps retain moisture, increases soil fertility and slows climate change.
Regenerative farmers often use a combination of techniques, including no or reduced tilling and planting into cover crops, which reduces carbon emissions and prevents soil loss. They may also utilize agroforestry, agroecology, permaculture and restoration ecology philosophies to guide their management. These methods promote biodiversity, encourage a healthy microbial community, capture carbon and improve soil quality. They also focus on addressing social justice issues, such as who owns and controls land, and racial and gender inequality.
Why is Regenerative Agriculture Important?
Regenerative agriculture aims to improve the planet by increasing biodiversity, enriching soils, enhancing watersheds, boosting farm resilience to climate change and bolstering rural communities. Ultimately, these practices can help to create more healthy and humane food for all.
Using techniques such as planting cover crops and rotating different types of plants, regenerative farms can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, increase crop yields and enhance biodiversity. This type of farming can also reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions by improving the quality and efficiency of crop production.
In addition, regenerative practices such as incorporating clover into grass swards or rotational livestock grazing can improve soil health by building up organic matter and reducing nitrogen losses. These methods can also reduce runoff and enhance the water cycle. This approach can be more economical for farmers as well, since it can reduce the need for expensive chemicals and equipment. This is especially important as demand for regenerative products continues to grow.
What is the Difference Between Sustainable Agriculture and Regenerative Agriculture?
While sustainable agriculture prioritizes social, environmental, and economic considerations to ensure future agricultural practices are able to meet human needs, regenerative farming goes one step further by aiming to regenerate or restore what has been degraded. This means growing food with healthy soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving the conservation of natural resources like water, air, and wildlife habitat.
Regenerative farmers typically focus on practices that increase biodiversity and improve soil health, such as plant cover crops, reduced tillage, rotational grazing, and the use of perennial plants. This allows the soil to remain covered and fed by microorganisms, minimizing mechanical, chemical, and solar disturbance of the soil that degrades organic matter and leads to erosion.
Regenerative farmers also seek to treat their farmworkers, apprentices, and laborers with respect and fair wages. These farmers also acknowledge the historical and systemic injustices that have negatively shaped American agriculture and strive to address them through their practices.