Regenerative Agriculture Innovation Helps to Combat Climate Change

Regenerative Agriculture Innovation Helps to Combat Climate Change

With concerns about climate change increasing throughout the world, a new United Nations report | https://www.mprnews.org/episode/2019/11/01/climate-cast-regenerative-farms | indicates that dramatic changes to agricultural practice are needed to achieve emissions reduction goals. 
However, some Minnesota farmers have already taken note of the warming world and are practicing new regenerative farming practices designed to increase sustainability and environmental friendliness.
The UN report was created by a panel of scientists who looked at the effects of various human activities on global climate change | https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/08/08/npr-to-slow-global-warming-u-n-warns-agriculture-must-change |. In particular, they looked at forestry, agriculture, and other land use, including peat harvesting and grassland and wetland management activities. 
Their findings indicated that these activities collectively generated about one third of all emissions of greenhouse gases, including over 40% of all methane emissions. Their recommendations: shrink the total amount of farmland and grow the total forest cover to help meet emissions targets of 40-50% reductions in the next decade. 
For a collection of farmers in Minnesota, it is a challenge they are already preparing to accept. Their philosophy is that of regenerative agriculture, which is characterized by an ideal of continuous improvement to the land. 
The philosophy of regenerative agriculture certainly includes organic agriculture but goes far beyond it. 
With organic farming, there is a process for becoming certified organic | Learn more on Commonshare |, and it involves making a variety of changes in agricultural practice in keeping with national standards and then seeking certification | Learn more on Commonshare |.   
With regenerative agriculture, that is only one set of steps in a much larger, open-ended, never-ending process of improvement. Getting organic certification is all well and good, regenerative farmers reason, but why stop there? 
Regenerative farmers do more than replace conventional pesticide applications with organic ones. They ask themselves how they can turn two pesticide applications into one, and then how to eliminate that one entirely. 
They also plant cover crops, such as legumes, grasses, brassicas, and others. Legumes are famously good cover crops because they have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and add it to the soil. A cover crop of hairy vetch or crimson clover can add over 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre | https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Building-Soils-for-Better-Crops-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Cover-Crops/Types-of-Cover-Crops | to help the next crop. 
In addition to nitrogen, cover crops capture carbon from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. This is a benefit, since it turns fields into carbon-capture sinks at a time when they would otherwise not be able to serve this function. 
At the same time, cover crops help to keep the soil intact, and that also stores carbon. 
Regenerative agriculture has other benefits: farmers who practice it get soils that are better at capturing rain water and holding onto nutrients, meaning there is less cost for the farmer. 
With climate change advancing, the need to reform agriculture has never been clearer. While organic is a good start, the practices of regenerative make it clear that there is much more that can be done. 

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