Biodiversity sounds technical, but it's a simple idea that gives regenerative farms all their power to grow good food and fix the environment.
Regenerative agriculture is poised to significantly impact how we provide food to an exploding human population. Some people believe a regenerative system can feed everyone and tackle climate change simultaneously. Its secret weapon? Biodiversity. This introduction will inform you about the importance of biodiversity and how it rests at the foundation of any viable solution to the food and climate crises.
Biodiversity And Regenerative Farming Go Hand In Hand
The concept of regenerative agriculture has evolved and will continue to evolve as technology and the state of Earth's resources and population change. Put simply, it is a collection of practices that mean to enhance, regenerate, and reclaim arable soil. Most regenerative methods have been around for millennia, and we can observe them in many indigenous farming practices worldwide.
Biodiversity is one of the main pillars of the regenerative movement. Every ecosystem in nature has a plethora of flora and fauna, all interacting with each other in synergy to maintain the natural system. For farming, biodiversity is the measure of how many plants, animals, and insect species participate in the ecology of food production. The higher that measure, the better.
Biodiversity Is A Sign of Healthy And Resilient Land
Studies show that biodiversity, particularly among soil organisms, is integral to the healthy function of any food system. Unfortunately, monocropping and chemical pesticides deplete soil nutrients and remove beneficial insects from the farm in traditional industrial farming. As a result, half of the world's arable topsoil has been depleted over the past 150 years.
On the other hand, high levels of biodiversity among the plants and animals of a farm act as a buffer. For example, root systems keep the soil from eroding, while some insects pollinate and deter other pests. In sum, running a farm with a diverse collection of plant and animal life makes it more productive and resilient.
The Regenerative System Benefits The Planet, People, And Society
The specific benefits of biodiversity tie in with the general benefits of regenerative agriculture – they are almost inseparable. Therefore, it is best to look at biodiversity as the mechanism through which regenerative agriculture functions. Alternatively, what "regenerative agriculture techniques" really aim to do is promote biodiversity, which in turn produces bumper crops from healthy soil.
Some of the environmental, economic, and social benefits of the whole regenerative system include –
Higher land productivity
Increased soil health
Higher nutritional density of produce
Better water filtration
Much less pollution
Farms more resilient against climate change
Some farms become carbon sinks
Plentiful natural resources
Increases food security for all
Regenerative Farmers Follow 5 Principles
Regenerative farms vary from place to place since they adapt to the local ecology. However, they operate on five basic principles. All 5, at their roots, aim to protect the naturally occurring biodiversity of the local ecosystem.
#1 – Don't Disturb The Soil
Traditional tilling breaks up the topsoil and allows foreign biological or chemical matter to penetrate.
#2 – Keep Soil Covered
The crops themselves keep the soil covered, but regenerative farmers use cover crops to keep the soil intact when they are out of season or rotated to another field. Mulching and allowing livestock to graze are other standard techniques.
#3 – Embrace Biodiversity
A wider variety of plants leaves behind a wider variety of nutrients in the soil. Moreover, cover crops that produce edibles are another source of nutrition and income.
#4 – Keep Roots In The Soil
Living roots in the soil prevent erosion, assist in water filtration, and prevent nutrient loss. Cover crops and pasturage are two common techniques of keeping roots down when the main crop is absent.
#5 – Diversity of Fauna
Animals are important, from livestock to birds and insects. Larger animals return essential nutrients to the soil through manure, while indigenous birds and insects often act as natural pesticides and pollinators.
Regenerative Farmers Have A Diverse Toolkit To Promote Biodiversity
Regenerative farmers employ many methods to promote biodiversity and, ultimately, the productivity of their farms. By observing the native plants and animals with modern technology, they can make informed decisions about using these techniques. However, the primary methods they use have been around for thousands of years.
Catch rotation is the most fundamental of all the techniques to maintain biodiversity and soil health. Regularly rotating crops is a natural pest deterrent, and it reduces the need for additional fertilizer. In addition, as the main crop is rotated off, the field can grow wild or have cover crops that require different nutrient profiles. Likewise, well-chosen cover crops leave behind the exact nutrients the primary crop needs when they decompose.
Regenerative farmers do not neglect animal biodiversity, so they rotate livestock from one field to another. This technique prevents accidental damage to the soil from overfeeding and avoids manure buildup. Furthermore, it prevents imbalances in the soil, ensuring that nutrients and microbes from animal waste are distributed evenly.
Biodiversity Gives Regenerative Farming Its Power
Biodiversity is the range of plants, animals, and microbes on a farm - the higher, the better. Regenerative farmers have learned that focusing on indigenous plants and animals, including them on the farm with the main crop, is the best way to promote soil health and all its attendant benefits. By engaging in biodiverse, regenerative farming, we can increase food quality, sequester more carbon in the soil, and enjoy a healthy and fair food system.
Participate – See the benefits of biodiversity for yourself. Plant a small vegetable garden and adapt the principles and methods to suit it. The product will be better, and you'll have more than expected.
Investigate – Try to source your food from regenerative farmers. Pro-tip: if a small farmer brings a wide variety of produce they grow themselves, they may be a regenerative farmer.
Spread the Word – There are many ways to reward farmers for doing the right thing. Of course, you can buy from them, but you can also support them on social media and recommend them to friends and family.