Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that focuses on efficient ways to maximize and sustain the natural systems, and in particular soil health, that farming operations depend upon for success.
Take the regenerative agriculture quiz below to identify soil health concerns (e.g. compaction, organic matter depletion) and goals that can help regenerate and maintain the healthy functioning of your farm’s ecosystem. Most of the questions are based on observations that farmers make on a daily basis in working with the soil, water and crops on your farm.
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Register for our Hawaii Women Farmer Network (WFN) workshop series. This series will explore how farmers in Hawaii can better manage the health and functionality of their soil as a pathway to improving their operation. The workshops will support farmers in identifying regenerative agriculture principles and practices they may be using already and assist farmers in monitoring soil health for improvements. Registration is now open for each of the virtual workshops, which will begin June 1, 2021. Please click the button below to register. You can check also out the workshop topics, view farmer videos, and join our Facebook Group to begin actively participating in our network of farm mentors and agriculture professionals.
Regenerative agriculture can best be understood in context of ecosystem function. When the ecosystem is degraded, the system can not function properly. When an ecosystem is healthy, farmers can benefit at the field and farm scale. Ecosystem services beneficial to farmers include pollination, maintenance of soil structure and fertility, nutrient cycling, biological pest control, and hydrological services (Power, 2010).
Maintaining the health of your farm ecosystem requires building healthy symbiotic relationships between photosynthesizing plants and soil microorganisms. The biology in your soil, both micro and macro-organisms (such as bacteria, fungi, insects, and worms), feed and ‘cycle’ nutrients for your crops. By feeding and encouraging biodiversity in your soil, you begin to restore the health and function of your soil and your farm’s ecosystem services (Magdoff, 2009).
When a system of agriculture disrupts the life cycle of microbes around the plant or the symbiotic relationship between your crop and soil microbes, it results in a degraded farm ecosystem. When the ecosystem as a whole suffers from an imbalance, the system can not function properly and provide vital ecosystem services. Examples of damage to the soil ecosystem may include disruption to the soil structure via tillage, leaving soil bare without vegetative cover, or over-application of chemical fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides which can destroy native organism populations (Brown, 2018). Regenerative principles that support the balance of nature’s systems are important, especially when farmers observe more compaction in our soils, less water infiltration, more runoff, ponding and erosion, more pest pressure and unhealthy crops.
“Ecosystems are a community of living organisms, interacting in a shared environment, such as soil.”