Regenerative agriculture is an approach aimed at boosting soil health. Because healthy soils are carbon sinks, the approach is often promoted as a solution to climate change, though most scientists say that healthier soils alone won't end the crisis if we don't also make an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The approach uses numerous techniques, like cover crops and rotational grazing, to build the soil carbon and reduce or eliminate the need for harmful practices like synthetic fertilizers.
Healthy soils are complicated ecosystems, and they're home to various types of fungi, plants, bacteria, insects, and other organisms. At their heart lies soil carbon, which is carbon once contained in organic matter like decayed leaves or manure that was incorporated into the soil. Soil carbon has multiple benefits, like feeding soil ecosystems, helping retain nutrients, and reducing erosion.
Agrichemicals like pesticides and fertilizers disrupt these soil ecosystems, reducing the amount of carbon they absorb, and they also lead to a harmful buildup of nutrients like nitrogen, which can flow into waterways or be transformed by microbes into nitrous oxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Overall, regenerative agriculture aims to eliminate these harmful impacts and practices.
More than half of the land on the planet covered in vegetation is being used for agriculture, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated these fields and pastures are responsible for over a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
Industrial farming practices and the conversion of carbon sinks like forests and prairies into farmland have been the main drivers of these emissions.
However, regenerative farming promises to reverse this flow of greenhouse gasses by putting carbon back into the ground, turning agricultural landscapes into carbon sinks. Regenerative practices aim to mimic natural ecosystems, which are natural carbon sinks; this can hopefully allow farmers and ranchers to store lots of carbon on their land.