Regenerative Agriculture: "Farming in Nature's Image"
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
While it isn't a new concept, a new movement is growing in agriculture toward the use of practices that restore soil quality by mimicking nature.
Restorative agriculture recognizes the key principles of keeping soil covered and undisrupted, maximizing crop diversity, keeping roots in the ground year-round and integrating livestock. Soil scientist and farmer Francis Thicke explained that these basic principles are found in natural ecologies such as forests and prairies.
"In the prairies, there were tens of millions of ruminant animals on the prairie before the European settlers came: bison and deer, and antelope and elk, and so on," he said. "And so, they interacted with the landscape to help create these rich soils. So, if we mimic that process, then we can start to regenerate our soils."
Thicke will examine the significance of regenerative agriculture in a keynote address to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's 43rd annual conference Feb. 17-19 at the Dayton Convention Center. Registration closes Thursday.
Thicke said innovative farmers across the Midwest are working with a combination of regenerative practices, including no-tilling, cover crops and rotating crops with grazing livestock.
"Water quality is one of the big benefits and, of course, carbon sequestration," he said. "So, all of these beneficial side effects really come as a result of regenerating soils. So, it's a natural byproduct of farming in the image of nature."
Thicke added that any farming method that involves reduced use of fertilizers or pesticides is considered regenerative.
"Conventional farmers use chemicals for weed control, and organic farmers use tillage," he said. "And if we can use some of these practices, we can eliminate the need for both the chemicals and the tillage. And so, it can help either kind of farmer."
Beyond healthier soil and water, he said regenerative agriculture also is linked to improved biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
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