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Ploughing, fertilising, spraying? Think again

Forget the usual rigmarole of ploughing, fertilising, spraying, measuring, obsessing over systems and inputs. The key is creating an above ground biodiversity which in turn nurtures a thriving sub-soil ecology – a rich, damp world of earthworms, fungus and microbes.

The regenerative agriculture argument is that standard industrial farming that depends on over-powering the land with tractors and chemistry is coming under threat for two good market reasons. One is a demand for "real nutrition". And the other is a world that needs to take its carbon seriously.

In New Zealand, right at the moment, many farmers are looking for radical change, having become disillusioned with the road the industry has been on. Surprisingly, the politicians and industry leaders are now suddenly talking about it, too. So does regenerative farming have any chance of being a mainstream movement, an actual change of national direction?

New Zealand is well-positioned for it, as it's still a country of animals in fields and farmers just have to run the land a little differently. So even if the regenerative method isn't pushed as official policy in New Zealand, a grassroots revolt may be brewing.

Here're the principles of regenerative agriculture:

  • Minimise soil disturbance. Quit with the excessive tillage, the dousing with biocides, and all the other practices that stress the life of the soil.

  • Maximise biodiversity. Plant a riot of foliage species, not the standard boring Kiwi pasture of ryegrass and clover.

  • Keep the earth armoured. There needs to be a living root in the soil at all times – some kind of cover crop. Or at least a thick trampling of mulch. The ground should never be bare.

  • Add animals. Their waste is part of the formula for feeding the ground – at least in a soil with the deep biology to absorb it.

"These are the core ecosystem principles we've known for decades. But we've continued the 60 years of 'better living through chemistry' that has delivered markedly worse human health and environmental degradation." - Phyllis Tichinin, a Californian nutritionist and consultant.

Source: Stuff, 25 April 2020. Read the full article.

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