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Abstract

Sustainable agriculture (SA) is a well-discussed practice to ensure resilient socioeconomic status of farms while protecting our environment. While regenerative agriculture (RA) is relatively new and comprised of the same tools and techniques as SA. Recently, researchers are leaning towards the term 'regenerative' over the term 'sustainable' as they look at this approach as the next step ahead of SA. In this article, we discuss our opinion regarding the necessary switch to RA from SA.
International Journal on Agriculture Research and Environmental Sciences
Volume 2 Issue 1- 2021
Opinion
Author Details
Debankur Sanyal* and Johnathon Wolthuizen
Department of Agronomy, South Dakota State University, USA
*Corresponding author
Debankur Sanyal, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science, South Dakota
State University, Brookings 57006, USA
Article History
Received: February 12, 2021 Accepted: February 15, 2021 Published: February 16, 2021
Regenerative Agriculture: Beyond Sustainability
Abstract: Sustainable agriculture (SA) is a well-discussed practice to ensure resilient socio-economic status of farms while protecting
our environment. While regenerative agriculture (RA) is relatively new and comprised of the same tools and techniques as SA. Recently,
researchers are leaning towards the term ‘regenerative’ over the term ‘sustainable’ as they look at this approach as the next step ahead
of SA. In this article, we discuss our opinion regarding the necessary switch to RA from SA.  
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Opinion
Sustainable agricultural (SA) practices were introduced as an integral
part of our crop and animal production system to achieve a long-term
goal of satisfying the human need of food, ber, and fuel, providing
economic stability to the farms and improving environmental quality
for holistic strengthening of socio-economic status of the farming
community [1]. Aer World War II, agricultural intensication and
increased mechanization of farming was depleting soil fertility and
productivity. is, coupled with rapid industrial growth, caused a
drastic decline in environmental quality and began changing the
global climate. e concept of sustainable agriculture came out as a
necessary approach to combat the adverse eects of climate change
on agriculture and as a way to bolster food security for the increasing
global population, without harming the environment [2]. Researchers
all around the world were presenting reports that conventional ways of
farming would destroy all major natural resources like land, water and
air and global policymakers collaborated with scientists and leaders in
devising plans for sustainable development goals (SDG) [3]. Priority
was given to soil and crop management techniques to maintain soil
functions, in the agroecosystems, that can provide enough food for the
increasing population while substantially reducing negative impacts
of farming such as groundwater contamination and anthropogenic
emissions. e idea was ecient utilization of natural resources while
increasing production of food, fuel and ber, maintaining an improved
level of natural resources and environment quality.
Regenerative agriculture (RA) is a relatively new term that does not
have a rigid denition rather it is a farming concept that is built upon
the idea that ‘no-size-ts-all’ and is a system-specic, holistic approach
that is required to achieve SDG [4]. RA practices or techniques are
similar to that of SA, but the tools and techniques are ne tuned for
specic agroecosystem and is soil-based rather than seed based [4,5].
e major emphasis is given to improving nutrient cycling through
soil by improving soil organic matter (SOM) status and creating a
positive carbon (C) budget using soil as a C sink in the terrestrial C
pool assuring enhanced soil functions and minimal exploitation of
natural resources. e term ‘regenerative’ is dierent from the term
‘sustainable’ in its essence. While SA is aimed at maintaining a desired
or improved level of ecosystem functions, RA aims at regenerating,
renewing and further improving the soil functions and ecosystem
capabilities in an ever-improving process. erefore, scientists in
recent years prefer the term ‘regenerative’ over the term sustainable.
We should not seek to simply maintain something that is degraded
when we have the ability to improve it. Much in the same way if we
were sick and our doctor claimed they could make it so you did not
get sicker, you just would not get better. Our agricultural lands are sick,
but we can heal them with the correct practices.
Regenerative Agriculture is primarily based on improving soil
functionality, soil quality or soil health and use RA as a tool to impart
climate and economic resiliency into the agroecosystems. In the current
scenarios of climate and environmental issues, the health of soil, crops,
Regenerative Agriculture: Beyond Sustainability 18
Citation: Sanyal D, Wolthuizen J. Regenerative Agriculture: Beyond Sustainability. Int J. Agri Res Env Sci. 2021;2(1):17‒18. DOI: 10.51626/ijares.2021.02.00007
livestock, human and environment are tied together, specically in the
COVID-19 era, the goal should be obtaining sustainable yield though
enhancement of soil health and resiliency, with minimal dependance
on chemicals and other articial substances. It is necessary to
regenerate our agroecosystems as with increasing demands of food,
fuel, and ber, a short-term sustainability plan might not be enough
to support the demand in the near future, and only a regenerating and
renewable system can promise food security on a long-term basis.
Regenerative agriculture includes a package of practices, specically
designed for strengthening soil resiliency on a farm or ecoregion,
therefore participation of the farming communities, the farmers,
ranchers and other stakeholders, is indispensable. e techniques
to study the impacts of RA are similar to that of SA or soil health
assessments, but cultural assessments are generally missing or
limited in soil quality assessments because of complexity and lack of
empirical measurements [5,6]. erefore, combining local (farmers)
and technical (researchers) indicators for assessing the inuence of
RA is necessary to understand the impacts of RA; however, impact
assessment is limited due to contrasting results. Devising new tools
that can combine both farmers’ and researchers’ observations to
address the impacts of RA on the agroecosystems, such as visual soil
assessment (VSA) [7], is probably the area where a lot of scientic
exploration is required. VSA combines farmer-assessment indicators
such as erosion, water regulation, crop performance, earthworm
counts [8] whereas technical indicators include aggregate stability,
nutrient concentrations, microbial activities [7]. Designing more
assessment tools to popularize the idea of positive impacts of RA is a
need of this century.
Sustainable agriculture in its essence seeks to sustain a resource that
has already been damaged by industrial agriculture and intensive
agricultural practices, but a truly regenerative system seeks to undo
the damage done to that natural resource, especially soil. is should
be done by improving the eciency of our production systems
through optimized utilization of natural resources. Lal [4], the 2020
World Food Prize winner, claimed that we produce enough food to
feed 10 billion people, but we waste 30% of it. e cycle of production-
waste-pollution-more production should be broken, while the aim of
RA should be at producing ‘more from less’. We should prepare for
the 21st Century Green Revolution following the strategies of RA
and we should not stop improving, regenerating and renewing our
agroecosystems when we reach the sustainability in the short term,
instead we should practice RA to achieve long term sustainable
goals. In this way, we can advance from a sustained environment to a
regenerating environment.
References
1. Stansbury DL (1986) National Agricultural Research, Extension, and
Teaching Act of 1977. New Dir Agric Agric Res 1-63.
2. Pretty J (2008) Agricultural sustainability: Concepts, principles and
evidence. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 363(1491): 447-465.
3. United Nations (2016) Transforming Our World: e 2030 Agenda For
Sustainable Development.
4. Lal R (2020) Regenerative agriculture for food and climate. J Soil Water
Conserv 75(5): 123A-124A.
5. Schreefel L, RPO Schulte, IJM de Boer, AP Schrijver, HHE van Zanten
(2020) Regenerative agriculture – the soil is the base. Glob. Food Sec
26(August): 100404.
6. Stavi I, G Bel, E Zaady (2016) Soil functions and ecosystem services
in conventional, conservation, and integrated agricultural systems. A
review Agron Sustain Dev 36(2).
7. Luján Soto R, M Cuéllar Padilla, J de Vente (2020) Participatory selection
of soil quality indicators for monitoring the impacts of regenerative
agriculture on ecosystem services. Ecosyst Serv 45: 101157.
8. Sanyal D, J Wolthuizen, A Bly (2020) How’s Life in the Soil? Ask (Count)
the Earthworms.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Regenerative agriculture (RA) is proposed as a solution towards sustainable food systems. A variety of actors perceive RA differently, and a clear scientific definition is lacking. We reviewed 28 studies to find convergence and divergence between objectives and activities that define RA. Our results show convergence related to objectives that enhance the environment and stress the importance of socio-economic dimensions that contribute to food security. The objectives of RA in relation to socio-economic dimensions, however, are general and lack a framework for implementation. From our analysis, we propose a provisional definition of RA as an approach to farming that uses soil conservation as the entry point to regenerate and contribute to multiple ecosystem services.
Article
Improving the understanding and fostering large-scale adoption of regenerative agriculture (RA) requires soil quality monitoring systems that integrate farmers’ and researchers’ knowledge. This is especially relevant for participatory impact assessment in semiarid areas prone to land degradation that typically respond slowly to management changes, often resulting in low RA adoption rates. We developed a framework for the identification and selection of local and technical soil quality indicators and for the development of a visual soil assessment tool, to participatory monitor the impacts of RA by farmers and researchers. We applied this framework in a large-scale restoration project in southeast Spain together with almond farmers implementing RA. Local indicators selected by farmers focused mostly on water regulation, erosion control, soil fertility, crop performance and main supporting, regulating and provisioning ecosystem services. Technical indicators selected by researchers focused mostly on soil properties including aggregate stability, soil nutrients, microbial biomass and activity, and leaf nutrients, covering crucial supporting services. The combination of indicators provided complementary information, improving the feasibility of RA impact assessment. This integrated soil quality monitoring system offers a practical tool to enhance knowledge exchange and mutual learning to support the implementation of RA and optimize the delivery of ecosystem services.
National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Act of 1977
  • D L Stansbury
Stansbury DL (1986) National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Act of 1977. New Dir Agric Agric Res 1-63.
Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development
United Nations (2016) Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development.
Soil functions and ecosystem services in conventional, conservation, and integrated agricultural systems
  • I Stavi
  • Bel
  • Zaady
Stavi I, G Bel, E Zaady (2016) Soil functions and ecosystem services in conventional, conservation, and integrated agricultural systems. A review Agron Sustain Dev 36(2).