The Switch to Regenerative Agriculture Practices
By RYAN NT 11 Nov 2022
Consistent population growth, demand for fresh, varied food and negative impacts from an increasing trend in severe weather events have pressured farmers to consider regenerative agriculture practices when farming.
Changing climates have encouraged some farmers to invest in more sustainable, long-term practices like regenerative agriculture practices to reduce soil erosion and carbon emissions from soil fracturing.
Regenerative farming methods have shown positive results for farmers and reduced their agricultural carbon footprint, a necessary step to help fight climate change. In this piece, there will be mentions of No-till farming, which acts as a parent term to the branched-off practice of Zero-till farming.
In this short piece, you will learn:
- How to start farming sustainably through regenerative agriculture
- Environmental issues with conventional farming techniques
- What is regenerative agriculture
- Sustainable farming practices
- What is no-till zero-till farming
Regenerative Agriculture Practices Australia
If you're a farmer, you’ve probably heard about regenerative agriculture or know someone who is using its practices.
Estimates have shown that regenerative annual cropping could reduce carbon emissions by 14.5-22 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 (Project Drawdown, 2020).
Regenerative agriculture is a sustainable farming practice that has the potential to prevent some of the damage that conventional agricultural practices have on our climate.
Consumers have become more aware of their individual carbon footprint, and many are actively trying to reduce their footprint where possible, whether buying locally, using more public transportation, or reducing their meat consumption.
Food production is already associated with ~15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and global food production needs to grow to meet the growing population (Bodirsky et al., 2015).
With growing demand from consumers for ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’ foods in the coming years, many consumers will likely opt for even more regeneratively grown food.
It’s no wonder farmers are feeling the pressure to farm sustainably…
Charlie Massy - An Example of Regenerative Farming Practices
When droughts in the 80s and 90s almost bankrupted Charlie Massy, he stopped ‘praying for rain’ and hoping his land would get better.
For two gruelling years, he watched his soil blow away, and his grass dry out.
He said he felt ‘embarrassed’ that his land was so dry.
Charlie had always enjoyed bird watching and nature as a kid and studied agriculture at university as a young man.
Charlie had always felt that conventional farming wasn’t the best option and knew there must be a better way.
It wasn’t until he was at his most desperate and lowest point that he decided to act and start farming regeneratively.
In his 50s, Charlie started a PhD and studied successful regenerative farmers and their practices.
This image shows Charlie's property - you can see the difference between the soil quality.
Charlie knows the importance of regenerative farming and now goes all around Australia to talk to communities and educate them on the importance of regenerative farming.
He has helped many conventional Australian farmers take the leap and move into regenerative farming.
“We should leave the land better than we found it” – Charlie Massy.
Regenerative agriculture improves soil health using no-till farming methods. As part of this practice, cover crops can be used to improve soil quality.
Unlike traditional farming practices, regenerative farming aims to take a long-term ecological approach to farming.
If you look after your soil, it will look after to you
Improved soil health and reduction in tillage allow plants to get more nutrients and be more resistant to drought, flooding, and disease.
Ultimately this results in a more sustainable crop that will survive long-term.
Regenerative farmers pay close attention to water management and the use of fertilisers, and they reduce wastage where they can.
With more severe weather like droughts and floods expected to increase with global warming, farmers need to take action while they can to protect their crops and future-proof their land and business.
Conventional farming methods often require plenty of chemicals and tilling to get the most out of the land – temporarily, but in the long run, you may end up stuck.
The use of long-term regenerative agriculture practices will ensure a profit in your pocket but also provide peace of mind that your land will remain arable.
This image shows Charlie's property - you can see the difference between the soil quality.
Sustainable Farming Solutions
- Reducing the disturbance of the soil keeps it healthy for longer.
- By adopting a low or no-till practice, farmers create resilient, healthier farms, as the buildup of organic material in the soil improves plant immunity.
- Less carbon is released into the atmosphere, reducing the carbon footprint.
Rotation and cover crops
- The rotation of crops exposes plants to diverse soils, which can help prevent disease and pest problems naturally without the use of chemicals.
- Exposing plants to more diverse nutrient-rich soil can regenerate the quality of your soils naturally.
- By increasing the diversity of plants in their paddocks, root mass, organic matter, and mineralisation increase over time, which creates nutrient-dense soils that lead to a more productive harvest.
- Before modern agricultural practices emerged, native plant and soil ecosystems existed naturally, and a variety of plants grew in the same soil.
- Due to large-scale annual cropping, soils lose the quality and abundance of nutrients if not replenished, so it’s important to consider how one crop can benefit the next.
- Reduce the amount of chemical exposure to plants, as some fertilisers and chemicals can disrupt the farm’s ecosystem long-term.
- You can make compost out of crop residue, food waste, and animal waste, which are all full of nutrients.
- When you add compost to the soil, you replenish carbon and organic matter back into the soil and can rejuvenate microbial life.
- Nutrient cycling can occur when livestock and crops work together.
Some of the Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture Practices:
- Increased farming productivity – more profits for you
- More water retained in the soil – greener fields
- Improved soil health – better growth conditions
- Diverse farm ecosystems – more resilient plants
- Healthier nutrient cycles – more consistent farming
- Healthier vegetation and livestock – less disease
- Restore land, not degrade it – peace of mind, the land will remain arable
- Building a resilient landscape– protection against severe weather events
- Reducing costs – less fuel/chemical costs
- Consistent – profits and yield are more consistent
The benefits are numerous, and it is no surprise that the popularity of regenerative agriculture growing worldwide.
Switching to Regenerative Farming Practices
For some farmers, the investment and time to convert their conventional farming practices into regenerative farming practices may seem challenging, steep, and out of reach.
With the pressure to produce productive yields and a growing demand to supply higher quantities of produce, farmers are more pressed for time than ever.
And it’s understandable that with anything new, there is a learning curve, so some farmers simply aren’t ready to make the switch.
There are ways to switch to more sustainable agriculture farming practices without investing in new machinery, such as retrofitting seed discs onto your tine machine.
Different Farming Systems vs Conventional farming
|Conventional Farming||No-tilling||Zero-Till||Regenerative Farming|
Increased green gas emissions
Faster and saves money on fuel
Smaller carbon footprint
Temporarily exploits soil and degrades health
Saves moisture and reduces erosion
Greater moisture conservation
Conserves and builds soil health
Uses natural resource with no replenishment
Less weed competition
Replenishes natural ecosystems
Increases microbial activity
Better soil structure
Mostly chemical free
In conventional farming, tilling machines are used which disturb the soil.
Working the top layer of the soil disturbs a land’s ecosystem and releases the carbon dioxide trapped within the soil. Carbon Dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas leading to climate change and severe weather patterns.
Working the topsoil can contribute to soil degradation and increases the risk of food production shortages.
What’s the solution to all this? Is there a way to keep our soil quality high without sacrificing profits?
Yes, the answer is No-till and so many farmers are now using this method.
No-till and Zero Till Farming
No-till farming is a method used as part of regenerative farming practices that involves minimal soil disturbance, leaving the top layer undisturbed and the soil ecosystem healthy. Zero-till farming is a branch off from no-till farming that involves leaving zero soil disturbance.
The practice uses special disc seeders or agriculture drills to make furrows, immediately plant seeds and then firms them and covers them with press wheels. This is unlike conventional farming technique that disturbs the soil.
There is no denying that No-Till and Zero-Till sustainable farming is appealing. For those looking to maximise soil conservation with their regenerative farming practices switching to a Zero-till system would be recommended.
Converting to Zero-till Farming
It can cost a fortune to buy a new seeder to start zero-till farming. Alternatively you can convert your conventional tine machine into a zero-till disc seeder and start adopting strong regenerative agriculture practices in no time.
The Retrofit double discs from RYAN NT are a double disc seeder conversion option that can be installed on most machines manufactured in the last 30 years.
RYAN NT Retrofit Double Disc
Benefits of discs:
- Discs makes light work of stubble and trash.
- Plant earlier in dry conditions.
- Retain more moisture than a standard tyne point system.
- Plant crops faster and save on fuel.
Paul Ryan and No Till Technology
Paul Ryan has spent the last 40 years getting his hands dirty and exploring the best seeding products for farmers. His love for the work and high attention to detail will guarantee only the highest quality products.
- Tailor-made solution – Paul knows that no two farming machines are the same, he’ll work with you to customize the products to work with your machine
- Best for your soil – By investing in RYAN NT technology, you’re investing in your soil as the products will lower your soil disturbance.
- Budget-friendly – Paul’s retrofit designs allow you to sowing more efficiently without buying a new expensive machine.
Now smaller farms can stand a chance and get access to similar results expensive equipment generates by simply retrofitting their machine.
Simply click the link below to learn more about these essential no-till conversion components and how they can make farming easier.
- Bodirsky, B. L., Rolinski, S., Biewald, A., Weindl, I., Popp, A., and Lotze-Campen, H. (2015). Global food demand scenarios for the 21st century. PLoS ONE 10:e01329201. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139201
- Regenerative Annual Cropping @ProjectDrawdown #ClimateSolutions. (2022). Retrieved 12 February 2022, from https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping