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Soil Conservation Plants Hope

The soil beneath our feet might save the planet.

“If we get the soil right we can fix a lot of our issues,” Ray Archuleta says. “Healthy soils lead to a healthy plant, a healthy animal, a healthy human, healthy water, and ultimately a healthy climate and planet.”

Archuleta, a Certified Professional Soil Scientist with the Soil Science Society of America, has a calling – soil conservation. He’s traveled the United States as well as abroad to plant the seeds of thought about the negative effects of a problem that he sees everywhere he goes. That problem is soil erosion.

In the film “Kiss the Ground,” released in 2020, the problem of rapid soil erosion is said to have begun long ago when mankind invented the plow. As the plow became popular vast areas around cities were plowed to grow grain for food. As the soils eroded so did those early empires until they eventually vanished into the dust. The film describes the 1930s Dust Bowl era as the largest manmade disaster in history. By the end of 1934, millions of cropland acres were permanently damaged.

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La nueva apuesta por el algodón orgánico regenerativo que se abre camino dentro del mundo textil

Para producir 1 kg de algodón – equivalente a una camiseta y par de jeans – se utilizan 20.000 litros de agua. Pero eso no es todo, ya que esta industria presenta un alto consumo de productos como fertilizantes solubles y pesticidas, impactando significativamente a los suelos y a toda la biodiversidad asociada. Así, al igual como ocurre con la producción de alimentos, el modelo convencional de agricultura para la obtención de fibras ha generado numerosos impactos ambientales y sociales, por lo que distintas marcas han comenzado a apostar por el algodón orgánico sustentable.

La agricultura convencional está basada en fertilizantes solubles y en pesticidas. Además, el suelo está expuesto constantemente a arados profundos, que junto con la utilización de fertilizantes sintéticos y pesticidas, generan la pérdida de la materia orgánica del suelo, lo que trae serias implicancias para el medio ambiente y el cambio climático. El uso de la tierra para fines agrícolas, silvícolas y de otra índole generan alrededor del 23% de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, como dióxido de carbono, metano, entre otros, según recoge el informe de 2019 publicado por el Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC).

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The Long-Term Disaster Far Worse than the COVID-19 Pandemic

There is a long-term disaster far worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic will end in a few years; however, the world will lose many millions more to sickness, hunger, poverty and catastrophic weather events because of the unprecedented climate emergency.

The world reached a record of 417.2 parts per million of carbon dioxide (ppm CO2)  in the atmosphere in May 2020 – the most in over 3 million years.

A study published in May 2019 shows that if we don’t succeed in radically reducing emissions, civilization could collapse by 2050. As reported by the New York Post, the authors of the report say: 

“This scenario provides a glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we have known it, in which the challenges to global security are simply overwhelming and political panic becomes the norm.

The good news is that we can turn this around by scaling up regenerative agriculture.

Why regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is based on a range of food and farming systems that use the photosynthesis of plants to capture carbon dioxide and store it in the soil. The soil holds almost three times the amount of carbon than the atmosphere and biomass (forests and plants) combined. 

Why is it so important to dramatically reduce the current rate of CO2 emissions?

If emissions are not reduced soon, we will be going into catastrophic climate change. This is because it will take centuries to get the heat out of our oceans. Ocean heat is a significant driver of our weather. The oceans and the atmosphere are already more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the industrial revolution.

The energy needed to heat the atmosphere and the ocean by 1.8 degrees is equivalent to billions of atomic bombs. I am using this violent metaphor so that people can understand how much energy is being released into our atmosphere and oceans and why we will get more extreme weather events wreaking havoc on our communities and environment.

This extra energy is already violently fueling and disrupting our weather systems. It is causing weather events to be far more intense. Winter storms are becoming colder and can be pushed further south and north than normal due to this energy, bringing damaging snowstorms and intense floods. 

Similarly, summer storms, especially hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical lows etc. are far more frequent and intense with deluging destructive rainfall and floods. Droughts and heat waves are more common and are resulting in more crop failures. They are also fueling damaging forest and grass fires that are burning out whole communities and changing regional ecologies due to not allowing time for recovery before the next fires.

The frequency and intensity of these types of events will only get exponentially worse when the world warms to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) which is the upper limit of the Paris climate agreement. We are on track to shoot far past this goal.

Managing climate change is a major issue that we have to deal with now

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing at 2 parts per million (ppm) per year. The level of CO2  reached a new record of 400 ppm in May 2016. However, despite all the commitments countries made in Paris in December 2015, the levels of CO2 increased by 3.3 ppm in 2016 creating a record. It increased by 3.3 ppm from 2018 to set a new record of 415.3 ppm in May 2019. 

Despite the global economic shut down as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic CO2 levels still set a new record of 417.2 ppm in May 2020. This is a massive increase in emissions per year since the Paris Agreement and shows the reality is that most countries are not even close to meeting their Paris reduction commitments and many must be cheating on or ignoring their obligations.

According to peer reviewed research published by Rohling et al. in the scientific journal, Nature Geoscience, the last time the world had 380 ppm, was 3.0–3.5 Million years ago. Temperatures were between 5 to 16 C warmer (9 – 28.8 F) and sea levels were 20 to 30 meters higher (65 to 100 ft) There was a mass extinction event around that period.

Even if the world transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow, this will not stop the temperature and sea level rises. The world will continue to heat up because it will take more than 100 years for the CO2 levels to drop naturally.

Global sea level rise will cause the atoll island countries, large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands, coastal USA, New York, New Orleans, Miami, London, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Dar es Salam and other low-lying cities and regions to go underwater. 

According to the latest report by Spratt and Dunlop, sea level rise and droughts and floods will cause a huge crisis for over a billion people by 2050, throwing our civilization into chaos. A peer-reviewed paper by Kulp et al. Nature Communications shows that sea level rises will cause a huge refugee crisis for 340 million people by 2050.

The world cannot cope with a few million refugees from Africa, Central America and the Middle East. How do we cope with hundreds of millions of climate change refugees? There will be widespread conflict over food, water and land.

The United Nations Paris Agreement proposes net CO2 neutrality by 2050. The evidence shows this will be too late to stop the enormous damage of catastrophic climate change. At the current rate of emissions there would be close to 500 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The fact is we are in a serious climate emergency now. We must speed up the transition to renewable energy, stop the clearing of all forests and we have to make a great effort to drawdown CO2  in the atmosphere to the pre industrial level of 280 ppm.

Reversing climate change

Four hundred and seventeen ppm is way past the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

In order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, regenerative agricultural systems would have to draw down the current emissions of 3.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that 25.61 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year needs to be drawn down from the atmosphere. We have to draw down more than this to reduce the levels of CO2 in order to regenerate our climate and prevent a catastrophic climate emergency.

The potential of three best-practice regenerative agriculture systems

There are numerous regenerative farming systems that can sequester CO2  from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and turn it into soil organic matter through the actions of the roots and soil biology or the soil microbiome. 

We don’t have time to waste on farming systems that only sequester small amounts of CO2. We need to concentrate on scaling up systems that can achieve high levels of sequestration. The simple back of the envelope calculations used for the three examples below are a good exercise to show the considerable potential of these best-practice regenerative systems to reverse the climate emergency.

Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management (BEAM)

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, produces compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms. 

Multiple crops grown with BEAM have achieved very high levels of sequestration and yields. 

Research published by Dr. Johnson and colleagues show: 

“. . . a 4.5 year agricultural field study promoted annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 while increasing soil macro-, meso- and micro-nutrient availability offering a robust, cost effective carbon sequestration mechanism within a more productive and long-term sustainable agriculture management approach.” 

These results are currently being replicated in other trials.

These figures mean that BEAM can sequester 37,700 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year which is approximately 37,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

BEAM can be used in all soil-based food production systems including annual crops, permanent crops and grazing systems, including arid and semi arid regions. If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2 per year.

The Johnson-Su composting method creates compost teeming with microorganisms that improve soil health and plant growth and increase the soil’s potential to sequester carbon.

 

Potential of “No Kill No Till”

Singing Frogs Farm is a highly productive “No Kill No Till” richly biodiverse organic, agro-ecological horticulture farm on three acres. The key to their no-till system is to cover the planting beds with mulch and compost instead of plowing them or using herbicides, and planting directly into the compost, along with a high biodiversity of cash and cover crops that are continuously rotated to break weed, disease and pest cycles.

According to Chico State University, they have increased the soil organic matter (SOM) levels by 400 percent in six years. The Kaisers have increased their SOM from 2.4 percent to an optimal 7-8 percent with an average increase of about 3/4 of a percentage point per year. This farming system is applicable to more than 80 percent of farmers around the world as the majority of farmers have less than two hectares or five acres. 

If the Singing Frog farm was extrapolated globally across arable and permanent crop lands it would sequester 179 Gt of CO2 per year.

The potential of regenerative grazing

The Savory Institute and many others have been scaling up holistic managed grazing systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence based practices showing these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Around 68 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil carbon faster than many other agricultural systems and this is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by published Machmuller et al. 2015 found: 

“In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively.”

That means they have sequestered 29,360 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year. This is approximately 29,000 pounds of CO2  per acre. If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt of CO2 per year.

Regenerative grazing systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Ending the climate emergency

Transitioning a small proportion of global agricultural production to these evidence based, best-practice, regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.

Ten percent of agricultural lands under BEAM could sequester 18.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

Ten percent of smallholder farms across arable and permanent crop lands using Singing Frog Farm’s “No Kill No Till” systems could sequester 18 Gt of CO2 per year.

And a further 10 percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing could sequester 10 Gt of CO2 per year.

This would result in 46.5 Gt of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil which is more than the amount of sequestration needed to draw down the 25.61 Gt of CO2 that is currently being emitted.

These back-of-the-envelope calculations are designed to show the considerable potential of scaling up proven high-performing regenerative systems. The examples are “shovel ready” solutions, as they are based on existing practices. 

There is no need to invest in expensive, potentially dangerous and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage or geo-engineering.

We are in a climate emergency and we need every tool in the toolbox to fix this problem. We don’t have the luxury of wasting precious time on intellectual arguments about whether this is possible or to convince skeptics and land managers unwilling to change.

It is time to get on with drawing down the excess CO2 by scaling up existing regenerative agriculture practices. This is very doable and achievable. It would require minimal financial costs to fund existing institutions, training organizations and relevant NGOs to run courses and workshops. 

Most importantly, this needs to be scaled up through proven farmer-to-farmer training systems. The evidence shows that these types of peer-to-peer systems are the most effective way to increase adoption of best practices.

The widespread adoption of best-practice regenerative agriculture systems should be the highest priority for farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, elected representatives, industry, training organizations, educational institutions and climate change organizations. 

We owe this to future generations and to all the rich biodiversity on our precious living planet.

 References/sources:

Johnson D, Ellington J and Eaton W, (2015)  Development of soil microbial communities for promoting sustainability in agriculture and a global carbon fix, PeerJ PrePrints | CC-BY 4.0 Open Access | rec: 13 Jan 2015, publ: 13 Jan 2015

Jones C, (2009) Adapting farming to climate variability, Amazing Carbon.

Lal R (2008). Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in global carbon pools. Energy and Environmental Science, 1: 86–100.

Kulp SA & Strauss BH (2019), New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding, Nature Communications, (2019)10:4844.

McCosker, T. (2000). “Cell Grazing – The First 10 Years in Australia,” Tropical Grasslands. 34:  207-218.

Machmuller MB, Kramer MG, Cyle TK, Hill N, Hancock D & Thompson A (2014). Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6995 doi:10.1038/ncomms7995, Received 21 June 2014 Accepted 20 March 2015 Published 30 April 2015

NOAS (2017). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US)

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/how-much-will-earth-warm-if-carbon-dioxide-doubles-pre-industrial-levels, Accessed Jan 30 2017

Rohling EJ, K. Grant, M. Bolshaw, A. P. Roberts, M. Siddall, Ch. Hemleben and M. Kucera (2009) Antarctic temperature and global sea level closely coupled over the past five glacial cycles, Nature Geoscience, advance online publication.

Spratt D and Dunlop I, 2019, Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approachBreakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, Australia, May 2019 Updated 11 June 2019

Tong W, Teague W R, Park C S and Bevers S, 2015, GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains, Sustainability 2015, 7, 13500-13521; doi:10.3390/su71013500, ISSN 2071-1050

Global Agricultural Land Figures

United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  FAOSTAT data on land use, retrieved December 4, 2015

The total amount of land used to produce food is 4,911,622,700 Hectares (18,963,881 square miles).

 This is divided into: Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares (5,391,431 square miles)

Permanent pastures: 3,358,567,600 Hectares (12,967,502 square miles)

Permanent crops: 153,733,800 Hectares (593,570 square miles)

 BEAM Calculations

A basic calculation shows the potential of scaling up this simple technology across the global agricultural lands. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2 which means that 10.27 metric tons soil carbon = 37.7 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year (t CO2/ha/yr). This means BEAM can sequester 37.7 tons of CO2 per hectare which is approximately 38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

 If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2/yr.

(37.7 t CO2/ha/yr X 4,911,622,700 ha = 185,168,175,790t CO2/ha/yr) 

Singing Frogs Farm Calculations

The Kaisers have managed to increase their soil organic matter from 2.4% to an optimal 7-8% in just six years, an average increase of about 3/4 of a percentage point per year (Elizabeth Kaiser Pers. Com. 2018 and Chico State University https://www.csuchico.edu/regenerativeagriculture/demos/singing-frogs.shtml)

“An increase of 1% in the level of soil carbon in the 0-30cm soil profile equates to

sequestration of 154 tCO2/ha if an average bulk density of 1.4 g/cm3” (Jones C. 2009)

3/4 % OM = 115.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare (115,500 pounds an acre per year)

This system can be used on arable and permanent crop lands. Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares plus Permanent crops: 153,733,800 Hectares = 1,550,108,100 Hectares

Extrapolated globally across arable and permanent crop lands it would sequester 179 Gt of CO2/yr (1,550,108,100 Hectares x 115.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare = 179,037,485,550 metric tons)

Regenerative Grazing Calculations

To explain the significance of Machmuller’s figures: 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 = 8,000 kgs of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2, which means that these grazing systems have sequestered 29,360 kgs (29.36 metric tons) of CO2/ha/yr. This is approximately 30,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt CO2/yr.

(29.36t CO2/ha/yr X 3,358,567,600 ha = 98,607,544,736t CO2/ha/yr)

How To Fix A Food System That’s Not Designed To Feed People

Earlier this year, Americans learned what it looks like when a food system reliant on industrial agriculture, near monopolies and exploited laborers breaks down.

Just two months into the pandemic, the meat industry in the most powerful nation in the world was buckling.

In March and April, COVID-19 swept through meatpacking plants, infecting thousands of workers. In Colorado, an outbreak at a huge JBS beef processing facility killed six workers. In South Dakota, as cases surged in a Smithfield pork plant, officials offered bonuses to employees who kept coming to work (although the company said any worker missing work due to COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis would still get the money). By November, more than 11,000 Tyson Foods workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19 ― 9% of its total workforce.

“It was like drinking out of a fire hose,” said reporter Leah Douglas, who began tracking COVID-19 outbreaks across the food system in April. “The pace of the spread was so intense.”

Ganadería regenerativa: restaurando la biodiversidad del suelo para combatir el cambio climático

Una pradera sana requiere que el suelo contenga los minerales y microorganismos adecuados para su desarrollo. Para esto es esencial la materia orgánica, que por lo demás, es la principal responsable de la retención de agua en el suelo y proviene de la descomposición de los residuos de plantas, animales y microorganismos del subsuelo y micorriza (ambiente que rodea a las raíces).

Actualmente, casi la mitad de los suelos (49,1%) de Chile presentan erosión, especialmente en la zona centro de nuestro país y de acuerdo con los estudios que existen sobre el tema, el sector agropecuario es uno de los principales emisores de gases de efecto invernadero, que junto con los efectos del uso de tierras, están entre las principales causas del calentamiento global.

Además, la agricultura y la ganadería contribuyen directamente a las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero por medio de las técnicas empleadas para el cultivo de granos y monocultivos, y la cría de ganado.

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Pasar del corral al pastoreo en la pradera

En las praderas de la región de Los Ríos hay vacas que pastan durante todo el año. No se alimentan de concentrados, granos ni hormonas. Rondan por suelos verdes y frondosos, libres de fertilizantes químicos. El ganado pertenece a Carnes Manada. Su cofundador, Cristóbal Gatica, está comprometido con no dañar el terreno a costa de su producción. A él le ha tocado ver de cerca el daño que puede causar la industria ganadera en el suelo.

Cuando aparecen grietas en un terreno, es señal de que está dañado. La erosión es natural, pero las prácticas agrícolas pueden intensificarla. Actualmente, casi la mitad –49.1 por ciento– de los suelos chilenos presentan erosión. Para evitarla, en Manada basan su producción en el manejo regenerativo, que concibe el suelo como un sistema vivo, por lo que procuran restaurar las interacciones biológicas entre sus distintos organismos.

Con el objetivo de aprender más sobre la ganadería regenerativa, la Fundación para la Innovación Agrícola (FIA) del Ministerio de Agricultura impulsó el desarrollo de un centro en Pirque, que busca implementar y evaluar técnicas agropecuarias adaptadas a productores de la zona central.

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Caminos de Regeneración: la agrosilvicultura trabaja con la naturaleza y usa los árboles para cultivar alimentos

BRUSELAS, BÉLGICA – En nuestro último episodio de “Caminos de Regeneración”, exploramos las raíces de la agrosilvicultura y cómo la agricultura industrial ha dejado de lado las antiguas prácticas agrícolas que producen alimentos saludables al mismo tiempo que cuidan el medio ambiente.

Cuando se trata de agricultura, el viejo dicho “la naturaleza es sabia” es totalmente cierto. Trabajar con la naturaleza en lugar de contra ella es una mentalidad que se remonta a principios de la historia de la humanidad, cuando los campesinos dependían del conocimiento y las tradiciones ancestrales para cultivar alimentos.

Nuestro nuevo episodio, “La agrosilvicultura en la actualidad, parte 1: Una breve historia de la agrosilvicultura”, presenta a Patrick Worms, asesor de política científica del Centro Mundial de Agrosilvicultura con sede en Nairobi y presidente de la Federación Agroforestal Europea.

La agrosilvicultura es una forma de agricultura que combina árboles y arbustos con cultivos alimentarios. Da prioridad a la naturaleza y es una de las formas más antiguas de agricultura. La agrosilvicultura considera que el paisaje natural y la integración de los árboles crean un sistema alimentario con beneficios ambientales, sociales y económicos.

Worms ha pasado décadas investigando y desarrollando sistemas agroforestales en todo el mundo. Es uno de los pocos cabilderos políticos y científicos en temas agroforestales en Bruselas y en otras partes de Europa, donde aporta su experiencia en políticas agrícolas.

Agrosilvicultura: el arte de leer un paisaje para mejorar la productividad agrícola

En una entrevista de Zoom con Regeneration International, Worms explicó cómo la introducción de tecnología moderna en el sector agrícola (pesticidas, fertilizantes sintéticos y equipos agrícolas como tractores, arados y cosechadoras) ha hecho que miles de años de evolución agrícola utilizando árboles hayan llegado a un camino sin salida.

El lado positivo es que a medida que las limitaciones de la agricultura industrializada se vuelven más obvias, estamos redescubriendo la sabiduría del antiguo conocimiento agroforestal, dijo Worms.

En el Centro Mundial de Agrosilvicultura, Worms está trabajando en nuevas formas de implementar sistemas agroforestales en todo el mundo y en regiones que se enfrentan a la escasez de alimentos y a los impactos del cambio climático y la desertificación.

“Si observas esos paisajes, son paisajes agroforestales típicos con jardines de múltiples estratos, plantas anuales en el suelo, enredaderas que trepan por los árboles, arbustos de tamaño medio y árboles más altos con animales y cultivos en el medio”.

La agrosilvicultura, una práctica tan antigua como la historia humana.

Los ejemplos de sistemas agroforestales se encuentran en todo el mundo y han estado presentes a  lo largo de la historia de la humanidad. Desde la domesticación del árbol del cacao en América Central y del Sur, hasta la higuera, que se originó en el suroeste de Asia y es una de las frutas más antiguas consumidas por los humanos, los sistemas agroforestales han producido algunos de los alimentos más populares de la actualidad.

Los primeros humanos que practicaban la agrosilvicultura desarrollaron sistemas agrícolas exitosos no porque tuvieran científicos con batas blancas de laboratorio, sino porque tenían un proceso constante de prueba y error. Las prácticas que eran exitosas eran adoptadas y transmitidas, y las que salían mal eran abandonadas, dijo Worms, y agregó:

“Pero la modernidad ha acabado todo eso. El conocimiento que nuestros antepasados adquirieron minuciosamente por milenios ​​ha desaparecido por completo”.

Reemplazar las prácticas agrícolas basadas en miles de años de conocimiento ancestral por una agricultura industrial dependiente de productos químicos ha degradado el suelo, eliminado la biodiversidad, despojado los alimentos de los nutrientes esenciales y esclavizado y endeudado a los campesinos con las principales corporaciones agrícolas.

La buena noticia es que el retorno a la agrosilvicultura y la ampliación de los sistemas de agricultura orgánica y regenerativa pueden revertir el daño causado por la agricultura industrial.

Los sistemas alimentarios y agrícolas que trabajan en armonía con en el medio ambiente absorben y almacenan carbono en el suelo y gracias a eso pueden mejorar el sustento social y económico de los campesinos, reconstruir la salud del suelo, promover la biodiversidad y las cuencas hidrográficas limpias, producir alimentos saludables y mitigar el cambio climático.

 Esto es precisamente lo que describió Food Tank: The Think Tank For Food de manera tan elocuente en octubre de este año:

“Si queremos proteger nuestro planeta y tener alimentos saludables en nuestra mesa, la agroecología es el camino a seguir”.

Para obtener más información sobre la agrosilvicultura y algunas de las mejores prácticas que se implementan en la actualidad, permanezca atento al próximo episodio, “La agrosilvicultura en la actualidad, parte 2: Las buenas prácticas de hoy”, en esta serie de dos partes.

 

Oliver Gardiner representa a Regeneration International en Europa y Asia. Julie Wilson, asociada de comunicaciones de la Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos (OCA), contribuyó a este artículo. Para mantenerse al día con noticias y eventos, regístrese aquí para recibir el boletín de Regeneración Internacional.

 

Want a More Sustainable Food System? Focus on Better Dirt

Four years ago, Cody Straza went “down the YouTube rabbit hole” of regenerative agriculture. “And I haven’t come up since,” he cracks.

For the past decade, Straza and his wife Allison Squires have been the owners of Upland Organics, a 2,000-acre farm near Wood Mountain, Sask. While their approach to farming was guided by organic principles from the start – Straza and Squires met at the University of Saskatchewan where he was studying agricultural and bioresource engineering and she was completing her PhD in toxicology – they transitioned to a regenerative agriculture farming model in 2016. (Squires went down the rabbit hole soon after her husband did.)

Regenerative agriculture is a system of principles designed to boost the farm ecosystem through the enhancement of soil health. This system is rooted in five pillars – better water management, low or no tillage (mechanical agitation of the soil), crop diversity, year-round cover crops and livestock integration.

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Trails of Regeneration: Agroforestry Works With Nature, Uses Trees to Grow Food

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – In our latest “Trails of Regeneration” episode, we explore the roots of agroforestry and how industrial agriculture has pushed aside ancient farming practices that produce healthy food while also caring for the environment. 

The old saying “nature knows best” rings true when it comes to agriculture. Working with nature instead of against it is a mindset that dates back early in human history when farmers relied on ancestral knowledge and traditions to grow food. 

Our new episode, “Agroforestry Today Part 1: A Brief History of Agroforestry,” features Patrick Worms, senior science policy advisor for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre and president of the European Agroforestry Federation.

Agroforestry is a form of agriculture that incorporates trees and shrubs with food crops. It puts nature first and is one of the most ancient forms of farming. Agroforestry considers the natural landscape and the integration of trees to create a food system with environmental, social and economic benefits. 

Worms has spent decades researching and developing agroforestry systems around the world. He is one of a handful of political and scientific agroforestry lobbyists in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe where he lends his expertise on agricultural policies.

Agroforestry: The art of reading a landscape to enhance agricultural productivity 

In a Zoom interview with Regeneration International, Worms explained how the introduction of modern technology in the agricultural sectorthink pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and farming equipment such as tractors, plows and combineshas in many ways brought thousands of years of agricultural evolution using trees to a standstill. 

The bright side is that as the limitations of industrialized agriculture become more obvious, we are rediscovering the wisdom of ancient agroforestry knowledge, said Worms. 

At the World Agroforestry Centre, Worms is working on new ways to implement agroforestry systems worldwide and in regions faced with food shortages and the impacts of climate change and desertification. 

Trees have proven to be an important resource through human history. Trees provide food and fuel, help fertilize soils and protect farmland from pests, diseases and extreme weather conditions. 

Combining trees, shrubs and grasses with food crops and livestock creates a functional ecosystem that’s efficient at producing a variety of healthy foods. In the featured video, Worms explains that natural landscapes where fruits and grasses grow together almost always have trees in them. 

Farmers learned early on the benefits of growing food alongside trees

Farmers who saved and planted seeds harvest after harvest learned early on that trees are beneficial when grown with certain food crops, said Worms. A good example of this exists in the high plateaus of Papua New Guinea, an island researchers believe is where the banana was first domesticated

Humans first settled in Papua New Guinea about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Despite the cool-to-cold climate, agriculture was in full swing in the region’s highlands by 7,000 B.C. The environment, dotted with swamps and rich in flora and fauna, helped make it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. 

Early foods systems such as those in Papua New Guinea are prime examples of ancient agroforestry, said Worms, adding: 

“If you look at those landscapes, they are typical agroforestry landscapes with multi-strata gardens, annuals on the ground, vines climbing along with trees, mid-level shrubs and taller trees with animals and crops in between.”

Agroforestry is practiced throughout ancient human history

Examples of agroforestry systems span the globe throughout human history. From the domestication of the cacao tree in Central and Latin America, to the fig treewhich originated in southwest Asia and is one of the oldest fruits eaten by humansagroforestry systems have produced some of today’s most popular foods.

Early humans that practiced agroforestry developed successful farming systems not because they had scientists in white lab coats, but because they had a constant process of trial and error. The good things were adopted and passed on, and the bad things were abandoned, said Worms, adding: 

“But modernity has swept that away. Knowledge that was painstakingly gained by millennia of our ancestors has completely disappeared.”

Replacing farming practices based on thousands of years of ancestral knowledge with chemical-dependent industrial agriculture has degraded the soil, eliminated biodiversity, stripped food of essential nutrients and enslaved and indebted farmers to major agriculture corporations. 

The good news is that a return to agroforestry and the scaling up of organic and regenerative agriculture systems can reverse the damage caused by industrial agriculture. 

Environmentally focused food and farming systems can improve the social and economic livelihood of farmers, rebuild soil health, promote biodiversity and clean watersheds, produce healthy food and mitigate climate change by drawing down and storing carbon in the soil. 

As Food Tank: The Think Tank For Food wrote so eloquently in October: 

“If we are going to protect our planet and keep healthy food on our table, agroecology is the way forward.”

To learn more about agroforestry and some of today’s best practices, stay tuned for the next episode, “Agroforestry Today P 2: Today’s Good Practices,” in this two-part series.

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. Julie Wilson, communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), contributed to this article.

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Land Restoration, One Paddock at a Time

SISTERS — Regenerative grazing has become a recent buzzword among social media savy ranchers and is seen as an eco-friendly way to produce beef. The Sisters Cattle Co. is out to prove the hype really can help Central Oregon’s grasslands.

Hobbs Magaret, the 34-year-old owner of the fledgling company, is raising beef cattle in Sisters in a way that not only avoids all chemicals, fertilizers and corn, but also leaves the grazing fields in a healthier state compared to when he started, using only cows to improve the land.

As unlikely as that sounds, his method of ranching — regenerative grazing — is becoming more widespread in the U.S. and other countries. After just 18 months in production, Magaret said he has improved 200 acres of land in the Sisters area.

What’s regenerative grazing? It’s a method of raising livestock that not only produces food for people but also regenerates grassland that has been degraded by extractive practices or poor land management.

 

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