We’ve heard it for years: “agriculture is the leading contributor to climate change.” While this may be a bit of an overstatement, we do see the connection. What’s more, research continues to suggest that agro-ecological practices are essential in helping mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
But our current agricultural system is unhealthy and unsustainable. We have so much land, yet so little available space for agriculture. Overproduction, soil erosion, and other factors have left much of the land we once used for food unoccupied.
Soil degradation due to overuse of fertilizers has also made growing plants challenging and expensive — leaving our traditional methods of farming untenable.
And then there’s the ecological impact. The way we farm today is detrimental to both humans and natural systems alike.
Thankfully, we have solutions that aren’t too difficult or costly: regenerative agriculture practices such as organic farming and agro-ecology can help us create more prosperous and healthier futures for ourselves, our neighbors, and our planet .
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
“The practice of planting and harvesting crops to restore the soil, improve the soil fertility, and increase the biomass of the soil for subsequent crop production.
Regeneration is the conservation, improvement and expansion of soil fertility as a means to increase the productivity of the soil and the rate at which food and fiber are produced.
It is not just about keeping the soil healthy, but keeping the soil fertility up, so the soil can retain more moisture and maintain a healthy pH, and have the proper composition for the growth of the plants, animals and humans that live on that land.
In the U.S. [agriculture] is dominated by industrial agriculture, which is a system that has been highly subsidized by the federal and state governments for decades.
It’s the only sector of our economy that we subsidize to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a hugely profitable industry, but it doesn’t need that subsidy because it has all these other sources of income—it gets its money from the government and from the corporations that sell seeds and fertilizers to farmers.
And so it’s actually a very inefficient way to produce food in this country, and yet we keep subsidizing it as if it were efficient.
What are Agroecology Practices?
Agroecology is an integrated approach to agricultural production systems that seeks to improve ecological efficiency through more sustainable practices:
Agroecology is a holistic approach to agriculture which considers both ecological and socioeconomic dimensions when designing agricultural systems. It can be defined as an attempt at farming with nature instead of against nature.
Organic Farming for Good Soil
Organic farming practices have been shown to improve soil conditions and increase soil fertility. These practices may include herbicide-free and/or no-till methods, manure-derived fertilizers, and the use of organic matter (including organic matter from the soil, compost, manures, etc.) for soil-applied fertilizers.
Organic farming is not only environmentally friendly, but it’s also a cost-effective way to grow healthy, nutritious food.
The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Soil Healthy People Program estimates that switching to organic farming on a large commercial scale would have a significant impact on global food security. In order to meet rising world food demands, farmers would have to use more sustainable and less harmful farming practices.
The EWG estimates that the adoption of organic farming practices would reduce the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer by 96 percent, petroleum-based pesticides by 99 percent, and synthetic fertilizers that contain synthetic nitrogen by 99 percent.
Soil erosion is a major problem in many parts of the world. Soil erosion is caused when soil particles are removed from the surface of the land resulting in a loss of soil fertility and agricultural productivity.
Soil erosion can be classified into two main types: physical and chemical erosion.
The former type occurs when wind or water erodes soil particles from the ground surface, while the latter occurs when chemical processes in contact with water cause certain chemical changes in soils, which then result in loss of fertility and productivity.
Soil erosion can be beneficial to farmers if it provides them with fertile topsoil for farming purposes but if it becomes too severe then it can reduce farm yields significantly due to its adverse impacts on farm productivity.
Physical erosion is a form of land degradation that results from excessive removal of natural resources; this could include overgrazing by livestock or deforestation which removes valuable topsoil from fields.
Physical erosion also occurs as a result of poor land management practices such as over-cultivation, over-tilling and poor tillage methods; this results in compaction and blockage which prevent water penetration into soils thereby reducing their permeability and adhesion properties, making them susceptible to further degradation. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers also contributes to
Agroforestry for Diverse Crops
Crops grown together in an integrated manner are more resilient to fungal diseases and other pests, and can therefore serve as a source of new genetic resources.
This, in combination with the fact that many plants are good indicators of soil fertility and can be used as food, has led to the adoption of agroforestry among farmers.
Agroforestry takes advantage of the fact that the abundance of trees and shrubs in a field can shade out weed species that might otherwise compete with trees and shrubs for water and nutrients. Furthermore, trees and shrubs can be used as wind and water filters, as well as as sources of organic matter.
Agroforestry is a kind of sustainable agriculture that uses trees and shrubs to improve productivity, reduce the need for chemical inputs, conserve water and increase nutrient availability.
The practice has been practiced for centuries in Asia and Africa. It was first introduced in the United States by African slaves. The practice has been adopted by farmers all over the world but it is still not common. Some forms of agroforestry are:
In India, farmers use bamboo to grow as an alternative to grassland for grazing cattle. In Kenya, farmers plant indigenous trees such as “Nyasaland pine” (Pinus merkusii) on their land. This helps to provide shade and improve soil quality by creating humus.
In Brazil, farmers grow eucalyptus trees in their fields instead of grasses which can be used as fodder for their animals. Due to the fact that they are fast growing and drought resistant they are very useful for these regions where there is heavy rainfall during the rainy season.
Farmers plant eucalyptus trees at a spacing of 4 m apart along with a maize field so that they can prevent soil erosion during rains when it rains heavily at night or after a long dry spell during the day when it is too hot for farming activities due to excessive sunlight exposure on the plants leaves causing them to dry up thus causing crop loss because of poor growth resulting from salinity or lack of nutrients or minerals present in certain soils causing poor growth.
Integrated Pest Management for Healthy Flocks
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a management practice that promotes the best possible conditions for the health and survival of all the individual species living on a farm or elsewhere. This may include the use of specific pesticides, biological controls, and other measures to combat specific pests or diseases.
Integrated pest management includes all these strategies and more. It is a holistic approach that takes into account all the factors affecting the survival of pests, including the environmental factors such as temperature, moisture, light and wind. The most important IPM component is to select the appropriate pesticide, or group of pesticides, for each pest.
The use of pesticides in poultry farming has been associated with several health risks including neurological disorders and brain deformities. In addition to these health risks, there are also concerns about potential impacts on the environment such as the potential for pesticide drift and poisoning of non-target organisms such as birds and other vertebrates.
Studies have shown that pesticides can accumulate in birds with high exposure levels leading to higher mortality rates from disease or from greater reproductive failure. Research has also shown that when used at recommended application rates, most pesticides are not toxic to birds.
However faster metabolizing pesticides have been associated with greater pesticide accumulation in birds causing faster death rates due to toxicity.
Additionally research shows that certain bird species may be more vulnerable to certain pesticides than others especially when exposed at lower dose levels (0.001 mg/kg body weight).
The use of pesticides and other chemicals in poultry production has evolved over time since it was first introduced by European farmers through chemical experimentation and mass marketing techniques which were adopted by American farmers during World War II because they were cheaper alternatives to traditional methods which included hand-rearing chicks in cages until they were ready for market.
Soil-Based Aquaculture for Fresh Water Fisheries
This is a relatively new idea that started in the 1980s. It’s when fish are grown in large, stationary tanks without the use of fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals.
In these systems, the fish guzzle up the same nutrients as in a natural environment.
There are two types of fish farming: In-water and out-of-water. In-water systems use ponds, lakes, or rivers to raise fish. Out-of-water systems use boats, planes, or other vessels to transport fish from where they are raised to where consumers want them.
Regenerative Agriculture and the Human/Environment Continuum
In a nutshell, the Regenerative Agriculture Movement takes a holistic approach to agriculture, including diversifying the crops grown on a farm, maintaining an agro-ecological foundation, and using appropriate technologies to increase production while keeping the environment intact. It aims to be both ecological and economic.
How regenerative agriculture practices can help the environment
Many of the benefits of regenerative agriculture can be realized through backyard gardens and small-scale farms. As a result, these practices can have a significant impact on the environment and sustainability of the country as a whole. And this is where regenerative agriculture practices can help.