RegenAG UK (RAUK)is a network come training organisation which promotes Regenerative Agriculture in the UK by connecting leading pioneers and trainers with farmers and smallholders via short courses, seminars and workshops, and by facilitating collaboration and peer-peer learning and practitioner lead exploration. So far events have been concentrated in the south/Midlands of England, but we hope this will expand further this year, including reaching out to Ireland.
We recognise the importance of a healthy water cycle – along with mineral cycles and biodiversity, as foundations for a sustainable permanent agro-ecological production base. So we focuses strongly on building soils and restoring ecosystems as the foundation to regenerating production, and developing resilience, promoting methods and approaches which work synergistically with natural processes to optimise production.
At the same time dependency on external inputs is minimised, and we look to improve livestock health and quality of produce, and increase farm profitability - with the most efficient use of the manpower available.
Why Regenerative Agriculture?
In many ways we've become a very successful species. Our numbers now approach seven billion and agriculture has played a key part in making that possible, but our success has come at a price - the serious degradation of the natural environment and in particular the soil and water which produces our crops. We've been using ever-increasing volumes of artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, but these strategies only function symptomatically, are increasingly expensive, and cause further problems down the line, including in terms of land degradation. Regenerative agriculture describes a wide range of practices, which instead address the root causes - and quickly.
Conventional thinking suggests that it takes a thousand years to build a few centimetres of soil. If that were true than we really would be in trouble; the quantity of topsoil lost as a result of modern agricultural practices is terrifying. Thankfully we can build soils just as quickly as we can erode them - but only under the right circumstances. And that's what regenerative agriculture is all about. While many producers have been caught up in the chemical approach, some farming pioneers around the world (often those who have been unable to afford modern technology), have been developing remarkably successful techniques that build soils and their fertility, clean water, and do it all while increasing farm yields and profit margins.
These pioneers have been sharing the secrets of their successes - some very simple principles - so the rest of us can benefit. From DIY recipes for biofertilisers to grazing management modelled on the behaviour of wild herds, and from the effective and minimal use of machinery, such as sub-soil ploughing, to developing local markets for farm produce regenerative agriculture encompasses a diverse portfolio of techniques, which individually or together can rapidly build soils, communities and profits, and the natural environment benefits too.
Finally there's the additional benefit of the role it can play in both mitigation and adaptation to climate change - or 'climate disruption' which would seem to communicate the problems more clearly. Regenerative agriculture techniques focus on the importance of carbon sequestration as well as retention in the soil; fertility and resilience in the face of adverse weather conditions depend on soil carbon. Not only does converting to regenerative practices reduce and eliminate carbon release due to unfavourable tillage methods, etc., but it also holds the potential to return a significant amount of carbon where it belongs; back in the ground. Not making things any worse just isn't enough.
Regrarians® Director Darren Doherty describes the five essential things for rapid soil building as follows (after Dr. Christine Jones www.amazingcarbon.com):
- Sun, air, water.
- Biologically available minerals.
- Living things IN the soil (plants and animals) and their by products.
- Living things ON the soil (plants and animals) and their by products.
- Intermittent and patchy disturbance regimes.
That's it. Nothing we don't already have on most farms. And even when it comes to using machinery like subsoil ploughing, most of what we need can be found in our barns or adapted from what we already have. None of this involves buying expensive equipment. We just need to be willing to believe that there may be a better way of doing what we do, and be prepared to give a little time to learning about it.
We hope you'll start your journey here...