Regenerative agriculture looks to the past to secure the future. This new agricultural approach seeks to restore soil fertility and health. The benefits are encouraging. A healthier and less disturbed soil has a higher potential to absorb and retain greenhouse gases. It also retains more water and considerably reduces erosion of semi-arid land, which suffers particularly during occasional heavy rainfall events.
Scientists from the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) say that restoring biodiversity in soils through regenerative agricultural practices can dramatically increase their ability to store carbon and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
In the report ‘Regenerative Agriculture in Europe’, EASAC concludes that the implementation of these agricultural practices should be a priority in order to continue to produce enough food to supply a growing population.
With proper management, agriculture can restore soil fertility and combat drought.
Several companies, institutions and foundations are working to bring about change. The Alvelal association, which brings together farmers, livestock farmers, entrepreneurs from various sectors, traders and researchers, has been running workshops since 2015 that have encouraged entrepreneurs to start businesses related to the agricultural sector to implement techniques that care for the soil and the landscape.
It is the lack of technical knowledge and advice for farmers that holds many farmers back, even though they are aware of the problems, as they do not know how to deal with the necessary change and the risks involved.
Companies and academic institutions study regenerative agriculture
Biorizon Biotech and the University of Almeria have created the Chair of Regenerative Agriculture in 4.0 with the aim of promoting dissemination, research and transfer activities in the field of microalgae and other microbial and biological solutions for regenerative agriculture in a digital environment.
In Catalonia, the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Technology (IRTA), with the participation of the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) and the University of Lleida (UdL), has launched AgriRegenCat and AgriCarboniCat this year. Two complementary projects with a common line of research: to identify the best agricultural practices to increase soil ecosystem services in different crops and climatic and agricultural conditions in Catalonia.
Companies such as PepsiCo, Bayer, Syngenta and Epigen Healthy Bite, and organisations such as GOB (Grupo Balear de Ornitología y Defensa de la Naturaleza), Fundación Aland and the Unión de Pequeños Agricultores (UPA) are already focusing their products, projects and initiatives on achieving the transition to regenerative agriculture.
The sustainability of agricultural soils was also at the centre of the EU Council of Ministers this week. Minister Luis Planas pointed out that “in the same way that we legislatively protect the good state of water and the atmosphere, it has been very enriching to share ideas on the sustainable management of soils and to express our opinion on how to protect and restore them in the EU, which is of strategic importance for the future of the EU agricultural sector”.
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