Regenerative agriculture is defined by Noble Research Institute as the process of restoring degraded soils using practices based on ecological principles. As a soil scientist, I commend the definition's emphasis on soil-based principles underlying this land management approach. This definition, however, falls short of including the core purpose of regenerative agriculture: the use of land for the production of food and fibre. Moreover, it confines this land management approach to soil alone, neglecting the broader landscape inputs to successful sustainable agriculture. The narrow perspective also seems to exclude profit as a motive, clearly a key component of almost every commercial agricultural endeavour.
Broadening the Lens on Agricultural Paradigms
The traditional modern agricultural system, sometimes referred to as mechanistic or chemical agriculture derogatorily, is mechanical in its delivery, consisting of a series of components managed in silos. In the event that a component fails, an expert in that component is consulted. Most often, this mechanical approach lacks holistic understanding and completeness, disregarding matters beyond the soil surface and ignoring linkages between production, soil, hydrology/hydrogeology and climate. In turn, this ignorance hampers optimisation based on the wrong foundations. A general lack of understanding of the relationship between the subsurface and healthy vegetation persists in modern agriculture today, resulting in suboptimal practices. Even experts in soil science can act in a siloed way, failing to promote system-wide connections.
Soil Science's Missed Opportunity in Empowering Farmers
Soil science, as a discipline, has fallen short of equipping farmers with the necessary knowledge to measure and monitor soil performance within productive landscape systems. By way of example, fewer than 1% of farmers regularly monitor soil pH, a key component and indicator of soil health, whose measurement has been cheaply available since the 1950s. One can presume that the same statistic or lower applies world wide. It is something every farmer should be doing at least once a season in every paddock. Still, today, soil assessment and management are often outsourced, rather than being embraced as an integral farmer skill.
Landscape hydrology/hydrogeology is even less understood in the farming community, particularly rainfall infiltration and groundwater-surface water interactions. These components constitute a continuous system, with climate, plant and soil collectively known as landscape science. The integration of landscape, production systems, and climate to enhance both financial and natural community capital, is where Regenerative Agriculture sits. Thus, Regenerative Agriculture is not just a new approach, but a new philosophy for agriculture.
Sowing Beneath: Cultivating profits and long-term farm health with Regenerative Agriculture
The goal of regenerative agriculture is to maximise the potential of landscapes for harvesting sunlight and precipitation in all seasons to increase financial and natural capital. This requires focusing not on the health of livestock above ground, but rather on creating the right conditions for soil biota, or livestock below ground, to generate long-term soil aggregation. Essentially, regenerative agriculture aims to improve the functionality and interaction of communities below the ground in order to increase profits, wellbeing, and natural capital of those above the ground.
Ready to Embrace Regenerative Agriculture and Secure Your Farm's Future?
Farm health starts with landscape health which is founded on soil health. Your pathway to cultivating a more productive landscape that will support your business for generations ahead revolves around refining your production system to foster the microbial generation of soil carbon. Elevating soil carbon levels serves as the bedrock for achieving triumph in regenerative farming.
Discover the transformative potential of regenerative agriculture on your farm. Get in touch with us today to find out how we at Ryzo can help you embark on a journey that not only cultivates financial growth, but nurtures the health of our land for good.