Revisiting regenerative agriculture

Rebecca Audsley, Principal Consultant, SAC Consulting.

We are hearing more about the benefits of adopting regenerative agricultural methods as part of routine farming activities. The concept of regen ag is centred around five key principles which firmly put soil health at the front and centre of agricultural practice. Here is a short recap:

  1. Maintaining a living root
    Root exudates provide food for soil organisms at the base of the food web, which in turn help to support diverse groups of flora and fauna found in a healthy soil. A living root means there’s a growing plant above ground too, protecting the soil surface.
  2. Minimising soil disturbance
    Taking a reduced tillage approach to minimise soil disturbance can help to promote good soil structure, increase organic matter content and support the biological processes that happen in the soil.
  3. Maximising crop diversity
    Above ground diversity leads to below ground diversity too, as different species of plants associate with different soil organisms, supporting the soil food web. Diversity can be increased on many farms, such as by adding different crops into the rotation or through more novel approaches such as companion cropping.
  4. Keeping soil covered
    From crop residues to cover cropping, keeping the soil covered protects the soil from erosion caused by heavy rain or wind and helps soils retain moisture.
  5. Integrating livestock
    Bringing livestock back into the arable rotation brings benefits to the soil in terms of soil structure, microbial diversity and introduces valuable organic fertilisers back into the system.

Where suitable, taking a regenerative agriculture approach can bring other benefits, for example better water filtration, improved water holding capacity, nutrient cycling and increased biodiversity.
At Farming for a Better Climate, we have been working with five progressive farmers who have been taking these principles and putting them into practice. You can read more about their activities, along with practical guides looking at the five concepts in more detail here.

Farming for a Better Climate is funded by the Scottish Government.  This article was first published in the August 2023 Edition of the Farming Scotland magazine

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