Over the last few years, the term “Regenerative Agriculture” has made it around the news cycle, and the practice is gaining popularity. But what is it exactly? The team at E4 will help demystify the practice and delve into its key principles.
Essentially, regenerative agriculture is a different way to look at managing the health of your field’s soil. While another component of regenerative agriculture is the idea of increasing carbon sequestration in soils to reduce agriculture’s impact on carbon emissions, there currently isn’t enough of a consensus among the scientific community to have confidence in regenerative agriculture’s ability to achieve large-scale emission reductions.
Until more studies are done on the carbon front, let’s focus on the impact regenerative ag can have on soil health. This practice shores up soil quality by utilizing five different methods: no-till/reduced tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, reduced inputs, and planned grazing. We’ll take a look at the soil benefits of each of these cropping tools.
No-Till or Reduced Tillage
With no-till or reduced tillage practices, such as strip-till, a layer of residue covers what would usually be exposed soil and minimizes the amount of soil disturbance. By having plant residue protecting the earth, erosion can be reduced. Over time, uninterrupted no-till can build up soil structure and enhance aggregate stability. With improved soil structure, increased water infiltration, root penetration, soil aeration, and biological activity. The soil can provide a more robust living environment for crops.
Just as with no-till, cover crops improve soil health by providing coverage to the soil. They reduce runoff and erosion. The other benefits of cover crops include building organic matter, help the soil retain nutrients, fix atmospheric nitrogen, decrease compaction, and provide weed control. Livestock can feed on cover crops and can help farmers scale down the need for imported feed. The root systems leftover from cover crops helps increase soil organic matter.
Plant Diverse Crops
Rotating crops can result in a wider range of food sources for microbes in the soil. Having a thriving community of microbes helps with plant growth—legumes, in particular, partner with soil bacteria to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere. Soil structure can be improved, too, with older root systems creating more aggregate stability. Crop rotation diversity not only improves soil health but can also increase crop yields.
Integrating cover crops and livestock has helped improve soil health and reduce costs for farmers. Livestock can decrease fertilizer needs and lessen the pressure from weeds. More crop residue can be added to the soil as livestock move throughout the field.
Reduce The Use Of Fertilizer
When used in conjunction with one another, these methods improve soil health and eventually require fewer fertilizer inputs and enhance water quality.
Combining these methods represents the idea of having an integrated approach to making the soil healthier.
Want To Evaluate The Health Of Your Soil?
E4 Crop Intelligence has in-depth soil sampling services that will help you evaluate your soil’s condition and what it needs to stay healthy. Our team has over 20 years of experience collecting data and offering insights that measurably improve farming practices. Armed with comprehensive crop data, we provide seed and fertilizer prescriptions tailored specifically to your field. Call us at 712.647.2666 to learn how E4’s expertise can help you maximize your yield.