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What is regenerative or conservation agriculture?
Regenerative, also called conservation agriculture uses a more systematic and holistic approach to the arable land and applies principles that ensure higher productivity and biodiversity in the long term. This method is based on the good condition and functioning of soils, which is bound with all sorts of live matter like plant roots, worms and microbes.
There are not universal rules for switching from conventional to conservation agriculture: the approaches and techniques differ between regions and could even differ between individual producers. There are, however, six key components. The first one is the core principle and is producer-specific while the other five depend on the specific context.
- Understanding the content: economic, environmental, climatic, biological but also individual content
- Minimum interference: interference here meaning tilling, chemical fertilizers, pesticides
- Keeping roots alive: i.e. the plant photosynthesizes and infiltrates carbon in the soil to nourish its biological condition for a longest period possible during the whole vegetation season. Perennial crops are best for this task
- Provision of soil cover: soils exposed to the elements of nature can be easily damaged, which is why it is always advisable to maintain some live or dead matter that covers it
- Integration of domestic animals: if the conditions allow it, it is best to have some animals on the field, something known as planned grazing
- Increasing the biodiversity: variety of crops regardless of what is being grown, for instance multispecies cover crops, insertion of hedges and even placement of beehives.
Why conservation agriculture?
Conservation agriculture has proven advantages. It is nature-friendly, and its impact is positive. It ensures the biodiversity that is vital for the soil health and fertility. It conserves and regenerates the farming systems, making them more resilient to climate changes, recovers the upper soil layer, improves the water cycle.