Report Synopsis

Regenerative Agriculture: The path to healing agroecosystems and feeding the world in the 21st century

Brian Dougherty

This report details the efforts of farmers and researchers around the world to regenerate healthy soil and improve profitability by practicing what is referred to as Regenerative Agriculture. Regenerative agriculture (RA) is an emerging concept for managing agricultural land. It seeks to combine the best conventional, organic, and biological farming practices into a system that improves productivity while enhancing ecosystem services. It primarily focuses on improving the health of soils by following basic soil health principles. These include maximizing soil cover, maintaining a system of continuous living roots, and encouraging genetic diversity, while minimizing soil disturbance.

Regenerative agriculture is more than a set of farming practices. It also requires a different mindset and different management strategies. It seeks to address the root cause of production problems rather than simply treating the symptoms. Furthermore, RA takes into consideration the environmental and societal implications of our food production systems. Conventional agricultural practices of the past half century have produced abundant food but have done it at tremendous environmental and socioeconomic cost. These practices often relied on ‘mining’ the soil rather than improving it and have led to degraded soil, lost future production potential, and shrinking rural communities. The RA movement seeks a better way forward.

The following report explores the thinking and efforts of farmers who are making the switch from conventional to regenerative farming systems. Challenges and opportunities associated with regenerative farming are discussed, and recommendations for implementing regenerative practices are given. These techniques and ideas may prove useful to farmers as they work to improve their operations.

In the coming years it will be much easier to sell a vision of an agricultural production system that regenerates ecosystems rather than degrading them. As consumer preferences change, consumers are demanding food that is produced in an environmentally responsible way. Farmers who can improve their soils over time and do it economically will be the farmers who thrive in the 21st century. The successful farmers of tomorrow will use RA to produce more with fewer resources and build both economic and environmental resiliency into their farming operations.

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