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Defining ‘regenerative farming’

  • by JW

The future of agriculture: traditional practices meet modern science[GWCT]

“It is an innovative approach to food production, designed to restore and protect our ecosystems, while supporting our farmers and communities.” [Innovation News Network]


Here’s quite a radical definition from the High Weald AONB people in East Sussex:

Regenerative agriculture is a way of farming that works with nature to help tackle climate change and ecological collapse. It is a grassroots revolution; a response by farmers to the environmental damage caused by conventional petrochemical industrial agriculture.

These pages have looked at Regenerative Agriculture as the future of farming. In the meantime, there are parallel debates over ‘rewilding’ and ‘going back to traditional farming practices’; the so-called circular economy and how that can work for farming and food production; the issues around organic farming and food and how that is going to work; and how would plant-based farming impacts the South West in particular, as we look to the future of agriculture.

The latest from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust looks at how embracing ‘Regenerative Farming’ could provide a path to sustainable agriculture:

‘Regenerative’ agriculture is seen by some as perhaps only the latest buzzword in a long line of farming systems: organic; conventional; conservation; sustainable intensification; agroecological. And while it is correct that it is neither officially defined nor significantly distinct from much of what has gone before, it does to me seem to draw upon those previous systems to create something quite homogenous, based around the five key principles:

  • Biological diversity (both within the rotation and the wider farmed landscape)
  • Keeping the soil covered (whether with a growing crop or crop residue – or both)
  • Keeping living roots in the soil for as much of the year as possible
  • Reducing both mechanical and chemical soil disturbance as much as possible
  • Integrating organic manures, ideally as grazed livestock

Debunking Misconceptions

Some farmers push back that such concepts are nothing new, and in fact merely describe the traditional mixed farming which many already practice across the UK. This is true, to a point. However, this can also be a misleading assertion, one which I used to hold on my 320ha mixed family farm…

The Future of Agriculture: Traditional Practices Meets Modern Science

We can call the move toward more sustainable farming practices ‘regenerative’ or we can call it something else, but ultimately I believe that it is an exciting new horizon for agriculture, with traditional farming practices meeting modern science and technology to move our sector within reach of genuinely climate and environmentally friendly food.

And ‘regenerative farming’ is now everywhere – with the traditionalist Express reporting on how a regenerative farming co-op launches the acclaimed Golden Hooves cheeses; the conservative-minded Farmers Weekly looking at how young farmers have been invited to apply for a NI regenerative farming bursary; and the ultimate big business PepsiCo  looking at regenerative agriculture and new sustainability ‘accelerator’ projects.

Meanwhile, the Innovation News Network looks at how everyone seems to be raising the profile of regenerative farming:

IN the face of climate change and a growing population, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture offer a path forward to feeding the world without depleting its resources. It is an innovative approach to food production, designed to restore and protect our ecosystems, while supporting our farmers and communities. Bright Tide is currently establishing the Regenerative Farming Accelerator Programme which aims to promote and support technologies and practices that engage with sustainable farming. The Innovation Platform Editor, Maddie Hall, spoke with CEO, Harry Wright, to learn more about the programme and its potential impact...