15 Jun Regenerative Agriculture and Climate
Change Threats: What You Need to Know
Regenerative agriculture, simply put, is the concept of working with nature rather than against it when it comes to cultivating plants and livestock. Every principle applied harnesses the natural power of the soil’s biome to create balance that, in turn, maximizes yield potential, reduces runoff, compaction, and pollution, and establishes social fairness within the communities and markets in which the production model’s goods are produced and sold. Additionally, regenerative agriculture creates economic and ecological sustainability, diminishing concerns regarding regenerative agriculture and climate change.
By leveraging the mechanisms of symbiotic relationships both above and below the soil’s surface, regenerative agriculture practices enable the soil to sequester the nutrients, minerals, and gasses needed to balance rhizophagy, carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles within the ecosystem. Additionally, because the economics associated with implementing the production model are indiscriminate of farm size, regenerative agriculture can be cost-effectively implemented on farms of all sizes.
Harnessing organic, natural processes to produce better yields isn’t new to producing food, so why are these once established and moved-away-from practices gaining attention in today’s conventional and organic production models?
Climate change is the long-term, gradual changes of interconnected weather elements on the planet over a period of time, notably the last half of the 20th century. As global temperatures continue to rise, so does the danger of deadly heatwaves, rising sea levels, and the threats posed to global food security and water availability.
If action is not taken to reverse the warming of our planet caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that we could see global temperatures increase by 2.7° F by 2030.
In the following article, we explore regenerative agriculture’s role in modern agriculture, its potential to reverse climate change, and the interconnectedness of agronomic practices and global warming. In summary, we’re exploring the concept of regenerative agriculture and climate change.
What is Regenerative Agriculture & Our Search for Answers
What would a world farmed and fueled by regenerative agriculture look like? And what if the soil biome could produce bumper yields without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides?
These are questions that Heliae® Agriculture has sought to answer since 2014. Today, the regenerative agriculture practices fueling thousands of acres of soil are being enhanced through the work of Heliae® Agriculture’s PhycoTerra® and PhycoTerra® Organic. Both products lay the foundation for both a successful transition and maintenance of regenerative agriculture. By delivering microalgae that combine with bacteria in the soil, form the base of the soil food web to provide food for all of the feeding levels above them. Both products accelerate soil microbial activity and population growth, which acts as the foundation to regenerative agriculture and climate change (a positive movement!)
Before we go any further, let’s explore what regenerative agriculture is. Regenerative agriculture is the feeding of the microorganisms that balance every other aspect of life both below and above the soil’s surface. Regenerative agriculture is nourishing nature, rather than killing it—it is learning to work with nature rather than against it.
The five principles that govern soil regeneration encompass a holistic approach to managing the soil biome—each spoke from the central responsibility of feeding, developing, and growing microbial populations.
It stands to reason that minimizing and, optimally, eliminating tillage practices are the cornerstone of regenerative agriculture. The goal is to nourish and build a living ecosystem beneath the soil’s surface. Tillage shreds that ecosystem, breaking the natural cycles that microbial activity maintains in perpetuity. Each tillage event forces a rebuild of the ecosystem, leaving crop-valuable nutrients, water, and organic matter at risk of being lost, leached, or carried away during rainfall events.
Soil health is dependent upon the soil’s structure. Continually moving soils, either by mechanical, wind, or rain events, is not healthy. Keeping the soil covered 365 days a year provides armor for water and wind erosion and regulates the temperature of the soil.
Cover crops are the answer. A “cocktail” mixture of cover crop species will enhance biodiversity—our next discussion—while providing cover, aiding in nutrient cycling, aerating, and keeping a living root in the soil.
Keep a living root in the soil
Keeping a living root in the soil provides cover for topsoil, homes for microbes, and aeration. However, the most significant contribution of a living root system, and its year-round maintenance, isn’t the mere presence of roots, but what the roots slough, or lose, as they grow and thicken. Both organic and inorganic compounds are sloughed as root exudates, forming an essential food source for microorganisms that move into the rhizosphere for the express reason of securing the exudated compounds. Different species of plants provide different exudates, and different exudates attract different microorganisms. Therefore, keeping a living root system in the soil is essential, but keeping a biologically diverse root system—legumes, grasses, and brassicas—in the soil is even better.
Monoculture has long been the theme of modern agriculture, but to what cost? When you walk across a native prairie or venture into the forest, what do you see: one plant species or multiple?
By introducing multiple species: grasses, legumes, other crops, and brassicas, in a multi-season approach using annuals, biennials, perennials, not only are you increasing the amount of time there is a living root in the soil attracting microbes and creating a flourishing rhizosphere, but the amount of biodiversity in the soil, as well.
Different species—different organisms—have different relationships within the ecosystem. Think predator and prey. The flowers and seeds of the cover crop mix down to the microorganisms attracted by a specific plant’s root exudates matter. More relationships and more symbiosis mean more resilience for the plant, the soil, and the ecosystem!
Evaluate Operations Before Increasing Livestock or Adding Organic Inputs
Every aspect, every principle, and every practice of regenerative agriculture requires analyzing how, if, and when incorporation will work for your operation. Context. There is no pre-written prescription for regenerative agriculture, and every farm is unique in its ability to access water and allocate management time. As a land manager, you have to be willing to take the initiative to observe and modify cyclically, hinging results on practices to find the where and how that works best for you.
Two management hurdles that producers often unnecessarily avoid regenerative agriculture because of are: livestock integration and organic certification. Neither are requirements; both are opportunities to maximize results.
The most important thing to remember when approaching regenerative agriculture and climate change is the necessity of phases for implementation. Start by incorporating a couple of principles into your management strategy. Set a flexible benchmark that you can observe and attain in the first year—what does the runoff water in your drainage ditches look like with no cover crops? Is it clearer after implementing cover crops into your management? Those are real questions, with real results, even if no hard numbers are attached.
Also remember, Heliae Development’s team of regenerative agriculture experts are only a phone call away. We know that getting started down the path of soil restoration can be daunting. Give us a call; we’re happy to help.
Connection to the Climate Threats
The benefits of regenerative agriculture know no size. Soil health is soil health, and whether restored on a one-quarter acre of a garden or 100,000 acres of farmland—the benefits are far-reaching. Why is this important? We can all play our part in moving the needle to sequester more carbon. We can all play a role in reversing climate threats by creating a sustainable food production model through fostering and allowing perpetual rhizophagy, carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles to go undisturbed.
Every crop, every flower, and every plant that a human seeks to cultivate—has a hardiness zone, a zone in which optimal growing conditions and performance exist. Those zones are changing globally. As a global agricultural community, we are beginning to see a shift in crop performance that can be directly attributed to extended El Niño events and climate change.
In Australia, wheat, a human direct consumption crop, and yields have experienced a 25% decline compared to trends over the past 15 years. In the U.S., the world’s most significant contributor to upcycled protein feeds, a 3% decline in corn and a 5% decline in soybean yield compared to the trend has been reported for the same period.
We have more people to feed than ever before, and that challenge will continue to mount rather than the ease with an additional two billion people projected to populate the earth over the next three decades. Today’s agronomic choices will drastically impact our ability to feed the world’s population in the future.
Heliae Agriculture is aware of this climate threat and is working diligently to create solutions that positively impact the efforts of backyard gardens and farmland worldwide. Read our impact and vision regarding regenerative agriculture and climate change and connect with us today.
Analyzing Carbon Emissions
Each year, our carbon emissions continue to climb, and each year our forested, native, and agriculturally maintained acres decrease—to a tune of 175 farmland acres per hour in the U.S., alone. Concrete cannot sequester carbon, but soil can.
Regenerative agriculture, rather the soils that implementing regenerative agriculture principles builds, holds the potential to change the way we think about agriculture and our current emissions-output>sequestration debacle. In 2019, global carbon dioxide emissions soared to 43 billion tons, an alarmingly dismal record that surpassed the record set in 2018.
In trials conducted by the Rodale Institute, a first-year plot in a long-term biodynamic desert trial conducted in Egypt, provided that more than 4 metric tons of carbon per acre could be sequestered in the initial conversion to regenerative practices*. Today’s conventional agriculture practices sequester less than 1 metric ton per acre. Multiplied by the Food and Agriculture Organization’s estimation of 3.95 billion acres of global farmland, we find that regenerative agriculture practices hold the potential to sequester 37% of current carbon emission totals and 100% of carbon emission totals if 2030 emissions goals are met as outlined by the Paris Climate Agreement.
At any rate, of the estimated 30% contribution to total carbon emissions, a widely-adopted transition to regenerative agriculture would result in a net-zero food production contributes to global carbon emissions.
The bottom line is that there are no down-sides to restoring the health and resilience of our planet’s soils. Pave the way to a regenerative future (elminating the threat of climate change) by integrating these 10 regenerative agriculture practices.
Partner with Heliae Development
The climate is changing, but through the implementation of regenerative agriculture principles and products, we can make a difference.
At the forefront of regenerative agriculture solutions, Heliae® Agriculture recognizes the need for multiple cropping strategies, both conventional and organic, to secure a better, more sustainable future for food production. To meet the challenges of feeding 9 billion hungry mouths by the year 2050, Heliae is committed to helping transition acres into the regenerative production model. We have assembled a team of soil restoration experts to help accomplish this feat, directing every grower to find the context and opportunities for regenerative agriculture on every acre. To support the transition into regenerative agriculture and climate change, Heliae® Agriculture has formulated PhycoTerra® and PhycoTerra® Organic to lay the foundation for both a smooth transition and continued success for both conventional and USDA Organic Certified acres.
To learn more about Heliae® Agriculture’s commitment to regenerative agriculture and the improvements to eliminate climate treats, or to visit with an expert about first-steps in making the transition, contact us by calling (800)998-6536 or sending us a message.
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