Regenerative agriculture – five things you should know

Expert hand of farmer checking soil health before growth a seed of vegetable or plant seedling. Gard

Discover what you need to know about regenerative agriculture. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

William Hargreaves from Savills outlines the key points farmers and landowners need to consider if they’re thinking of adopting methods of regenerative agriculture.

RMG Photography - July 2017
Savills - Staff portraits - 2017.
Pic - Richard Marsham/RMG Photography

William Hargreaves from Savills outlines some key points to consider. - Credit: RMG Photography

The term regenerative agriculture may have only recently surfaced as a popular concept, but it is gaining traction as a key solution to feeding growing populations and tackling climate change. Increasing in popularity among farmers and landowners as well as scientists, policy makers and the public, it is about repairing and improving soil health rather than using or sustaining current management methods.

Our latest Spotlight on Regenerative Agriculture research sets out the basics for those interested in learning more, as well as pointing to some developments and new areas of interest.

In the meantime, here are five key points for farmers and landowners to bear in mind:

1.Defining regenerative agriculture is not simple. In its broadest terms, it refers to practices that seek to work with natural systems to restore and enhance the biodiversity, soil fertility and ecosystems (such as carbon sequestration and water retention) of farmed land. However, because it is not a one-size-fits-all method, land managers can adopt techniques to suit their land type and farming business.

2.Central to the regenerative agriculture model is the concept of protecting and restoring soils. There are five core principles: minimising soil disturbance, maximising species diversity, building soil organic matter, maintaining living roots and integrating livestock. In essence, it’s about working with and optimising the land’s natural biological systems to improve resilience.

3. The fact that a regenerative model boosts biodiversity and sequesters carbon makes it an attractive solution to mitigating against climate change. The pivotal question in the debate, however, is whether it can produce enough food. Typically, there may be a drop in yield when adopting certain regenerative techniques, but more evidence is needed before reaching concrete conclusions. A key consideration is the improved long-term environmental resilience of regenerative models against the increasing environmental uncertainty of high yielding, intensive systems.

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4.Regenerative is not the same as sustainable. All regenerative models are sustainable, however, not all sustainable action is regenerative. A regenerative system fixes the root cause of the problem and then renews its growth potential, whereas sustainability focuses on mitigating impacts or not letting the problem get any greater.

5. Innovation will be key. There are significant opportunities arising around the possibilities of fusing a regenerative mindset with agritech advances This would offer a hybrid future of effective and efficient technology working alongside natural biology. There are many ways in which this could be of benefit, for example, in ecological monitoring and data collection.

However, in order to optimise this momentum, regenerative agriculture needs to find a tangible way to measure and demonstrate its impact. Challenging conventional methods of farming should always be the aim of those optimising their farming assets. Regenerative agriculture offers one such solution.

While not necessarily right for all, it’s an approach that offers plenty of opportunity – particularly as government policy and the demands of the supply chain are moving in the direction of rewarding those who promote environmental good practice.

For advice on the rural sector contact William Hargreaves at Savills Ipswich on 01473 234 822 or