Regenerative Agriculture Principles in High Value Cropping Rotation
Worldwide, soil is being degraded and lost through misguided farm practices which severely depletes the capacity of the agricultural community to feed the world.
Expanding knowledge of the complexity of soil ecosystems, is awakening farmers to the services provided by the living component of soil. The soil provides ecological services that support life on the planet, yet many farming practices do not harness these services and rely heavily on synthetic inputs. This reliance is accentuated as soil degradation progresses.
Regenerative Agriculture (RA) defines a management paradigm aimed at restoring the soil ecosystem and is gaining momentum across the globe. As the soil ecosystem gains health reliance on synthetic inputs is reduced. This paradigm involves farming with nature rather than against it, to embrace soil complexity and living biology. The five principles for healthy soil management, underpinning Regenerative Agriculture are:
- Keep the soil covered
- Minimise soil disturbance
- A living plant all year around
- Livestock integration
These five principles are derived from observing how nature sustains a living soil ecosystem and are used in a farm system to maintain a highly functioning soil while producing productive crops. Through many complex interactions and synergist links these principles maintain a highly functioning soil that supports productive crops.
While the principles are universal, the implementation is varied and diverse. Every farm is different, and each farmer needs to find ways to integrate the principles onto their farm. Strategies include cover crops, companion planting, cattle, crop residues, direct seeders, strip tillage, and relaying cropping, however, there is no simple recipe.
RA requires commitment to the soil and allowing time for soil to regenerate into a self-supporting system.
Despite the high amounts of tillage required in the high value cropping rotation farmed in Tasmania, there are methods that can be used to improve soil health and reduce the reliance on synthetic inputs. This will require investment in machinery and time to trial new ways to grow high value crops.
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