Everyone’s Talking About Regenerative Farming…
With the drive for net zero and reducing carbon footprint, regenerative farming is certainly a buzz word in the agricultural industry. Decarbonising agricultural emissions is certainly a challenge, and the pursuit of a net-zero emission economy by 2050 will be a lofty target for the agricultural sector.
Farming certainly brings with it some unavoidable emissions, such as the raising of animals and use of fertilizer. The government’s recently launched ‘Net Zero Growth Plan’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/powering-up-britain ) states, however, that these practices must continue for the sustainment of the British Food Industry, while reducing emissions ‘as far as possible’. Regenerative agriculture is perhaps one of few ways in which the UK farming industry can attain to the Net Zero targets set out by the government. Regenerative farming is certainly not an extremist plan culminating in the prohibition of raising cattle, it essentially lays out a new approach to agriculture, based on conservation and rehabilitation. Regenerative agriculture can be summarized by the following five key principles…
Minimizing Soil Disturbance
Soil is ultimately the most valuable asset on a farm, and in the min-till and no-till approaches advocated in regenerative agriculture, soil is typically healthier and has better holding capacity for water and nutrients. Min-till and no-till systems avoid the use of ploughing and heavy cultivation and use a machine like a Moore Unidrill direct drill for seeding. As a result, this will give increased protection from flooding and drought and reduce the need for fertilizer, as a greater amount of nutrients are retained in the soil. Overall, soil structure and health will be much improved, and crop establishment rates will increase. In addition, minimizing soil disturbance will reduce harm to earthworms and other organisms as well as reducing operator times and fuel costs, which will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Eliminating Bare Soil
The elimination of bare soil using stubble residues or cover cropping will reduce soil erosion and soil runoff, which can be harmful to aquatic life and cause water pollution. Soil erosion and runoff is caused by extensive exposure to the elements; excessive rainfall, heat, wind etc, which soil is not subject to under the protection of a stubble residue or cover crop. Cover cropping also means that more carbon is captured, rather than this being emitted into the atmosphere. Keeping living roots in the soil is also essential for keeping the creatures at the bottom of the soil food chain alive.
Integrating Livestock & Cropping Operations
This combines animals and plants into a single ecosystem. Instead of a conventional approach that keeps livestock and crop production separate, regenerative agriculture turns this into a circular system; the plants feed the animals and the animals feed the plants. For instance, grazing of sheep or cows encourages plant growth and distributes natural nutrients back into the earth via manure, as opposed to the use of costly chemical inputs.
Growing a variety of crops/increasing plant biodiversity
Building a variety of plants into a rotational cropping system increases the variety of nutrients entering the soil through roots and natural decomposition, this in turn attracts insects which are the natural predators of pests. Rotational cropping also balances what is being taken out and put into the soil naturally by plants. Increasing biodiversity also makes soils more resilient, as they can better adapt to changing circumstances, which is important in the advent of bad weather or pest influxes.
Minimizing Chemical Inputs
Chemical inputs such as fertilizers are not only costly to buy, they also cost our planet. In the production of chemical inputs, many greenhouse gases are reduced into the earth’s atmosphere, and when applied to our soils, these have a negative impact on biodiversity and can pollute waterways via runoff.
Are you ready for the change to Regenerative farming?
Reading the above, you may feel that your farm is not quite ready for the change that a regenerative approach may bring, and that the net-zero demands set out by the government are much too steep. However, the DEFRA website clearly states that the measures outlined in the Net Zero Plan ‘build on the progress that farmers have already made’; bear in mind that since 1990 alone, agricultural emissions have reduced by 12%. In addition to that, the dairy sector reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12% between 2000 and 2020, while increasing milk production by 11% with 21% fewer cattle.
Of course, there are also substantial incentives available for farmers considering a regenerative farming approach, which have been laid out by the Sustainable Farming Incentive (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sustainable-farming-incentive-guidance ) and the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/countryside-stewardship-get-funding-to-protect-and-improve-the-land-you-manage ). Farmers can also refer to the recent Environmental Land Management Update (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environmental-land-management-update-how-government-will-pay-for-land-based-environment-and-climate-goods-and-services/environmental-land-management-elm-update-how-government-will-pay-for-land-based-environment-and-climate-goods-and-services ) to see how they can be rewarded for those. Other measures include the Farming Investment Fund (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/farming-investment-fund ) and the Farming Innovation Programme (https://farminginnovation.ukri.org/ ), and the full range of one-off and ongoing payments can be found on the Funding For Farmers and Land Managers (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/funding-for-farmers ) page on the GOV.UK website.
Finally, this wouldn’t be a Moore Unidrill blogpost without throwing a quick product push in there 😉 and the purchase of a direct drill is one way your farm could commence a transition to regenerative farming. While the regenerative approach is pretty vogue right now, Moore Unidrill have been hard at it for nearly fifty years, with proven results and a globally recognized brand. Our drilling system operates in min-till or no-till systems, maximizing soil health without compromising yields, powering your farm towards the government’s net zero targets. If you’d like to find out more about how a Moore Unidrill could kickstart your farm’s transition to regenerative agriculture, call 028 2766 4444 or find your local dealer here : https://www.moore-unidrill.com/find-dealers-distributors/ .