Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming that “improves the resources it uses, rather than depleting them”. It is comprised of practices that improve the health of the land being farmed. These practices focus on areas such as soil health and water management. Many regenerative techniques improve nearby water quality and protect freshwater ecosystems.
Fertilizers and chemicals
Avoiding excessive fertilizes, pesticide, and herbicide application also prevents them from getting into the water. In 2018 alone, over 100 kg of fertilizer were used per hectare of arable land. Much of the excess nutrients end up in waterways, which can lead to eutrophication- this is when algae and other aquatic plants grow out of control and choke out fish and other organisms. A regenerative solution is to measure and time nutrient application and to use natural sources of fertilizer. Organic solutions, like beneficial insects to prey on harmful ones, can reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides needed.
Low or No-Till
One method that benefits water quality is reducing tillage. This method of farming improves the health of the soil and adds organic matter to it. Healthy, fertile soil is more stable and can hold more water. As a result, healthy soil reduces nutrient run-off into nearby waterways. Reducing tillage can also save money and be less work for farmers.
Cover crops, used to plant land that would otherwise be bare, reduce the risk of soil erosion and nutrient loss. Plant roots help hold the soil in place and absorb nutrients. When the cover crop is later turned into the soil, the nutrients go with it improving the health of the soil.
There is currently no regulating body for regenerative agriculture in Canada, which means definitions and practices can vary a bit from person to person. However, it usually involves improving soil health, sequestering carbon, and increasing biodiversity. Many of the techniques used by regenerative farmers protect nearby bodies of water too.
If you would like to learn more about regenerative agriculture and how it compares to organic farming, we invite you to watch our video from our webinar with Emma Bryce from the Organic Federation of Canada, “Organic or Regenerative: What Do These Terms Really Mean?”