Biodiversity and the Regenerative Practice Index

Marek Pytlík
May 17, 2023
Regenerative agriculture

The support and protection of biodiversity is one of today's most important issues. That's why we have decided to support regenerative farmers who also respect biodiversity. But how can we measure regenerative agriculture? The Regenerative Practices Index, which we present in this article, was created for this purpose.

Carboneg Regenerative Practices Index

We decided to develop and implement a bonus rewards system for regenerative agricultural practices not only to increase support for overall biodiversity but also due to the lack of comprehensive assessment and monitoring of the quality of regenerative agriculture. We want to financially support farmers who contribute to greater biodiversity on their land, whether through a wider array of plant species, reduced use of plant protection products or better grazing management. The farmers whose regenerative practices are rated higher according to the criteria assessed will have the opportunity to receive a higher reward for each tonne of carbon dioxide stored in the soil. At the same time, thanks to this small incentive, we want to track the progress of our farmers over time and have a record of the development in regenerative practices that are already in use today.

What does the index offer?

The Regenerative Practice Index assesses the quality of regenerative practice in numerical form. It is primarily for Carboneg's internal use to determine whether an agricultural entity or a private farmer will receive a higher financial reward. It also provides a comparison of individual farms and enables monitoring of their progress on the index scale. At the same time it also allows the level of overall biodiversity and the degree of ecological approach in specific areas to be monitored.


The importance of supporting biodiversity

With the decline of natural habitats for wildlife and the fact that many scientists believe we are on the verge of the 6th mass extinction in planetary history, it is more than necessary to start doing things differently. It is the only way to change this already long-standing and unfavourable trend. The current predicament is exacerbated by a warming planet and climate change. The decline in biodiversity is most easily seen in the drastic reduction in insects, the beginning of many food chains. For example, according to a 2017 study from Germany, there has been a 76% decline in flying insects over the past 27 years. The widespread decline in insects is evident to the general public as well. However, what is alarming about this study is that the research was conducted in protected areas, which instead should be an oasis where wildlife can thrive.

It is clear based on the above that biodiversity conservation cannot rely only on areas protected by the state, but it is necessary to involve agricultural land as much as possible in the support of biodiversity. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in 2020 approximately 38% of the Earth's land surface was used for agricultural activities, illustrating how farming practices have a major impact on global biodiversity and climate.

The current state of biodiversity and regenerative practice assessments

Biodiversity assessments are not something new. Most international biodiversity assessments use the local diversity of selected animal species, mainly birds, but also larger vertebrates, butterflies and other insects, perhaps plant diversity, as the main indicators. Regional agrobiodiversity studies are often based on data obtained from on-site observations. Data from the European Bird Survey or other similar surveys only carried out at the national level are often used.


Biodiversity research on specific farms is often based on the field observations of researchers, which can be limited by their professional background, time and effort. Typically, only a small number of farms in one area can be studied by a specific research group and when studying a particular biological taxon, the time period of the presence of the taxon needs to be taken into account, making the whole endeavour very complicated. Another major limitation of biodiversity assessment is the lack of scientific and comprehensive long-term data, which is a very common situation outside of the European continent.

For many reasons, we have decided to focus on monitoring the diversity of cultivated plant and animal species and other parameters that both, directly and indirectly, affect wildlife, instead of studying wild organisms directly. The research on individual farms has been predominantly concentrated on organic farms. For regenerative farms, which are often a hybrid between conventional and organic farming, similar research and evaluation are lacking.


The index evaluates both field and pasture care

The Carboneg Regenerative Practices Index is divided into a Field Care Index, which assesses the extent and quality of regenerative practices in crop production, and a Pasture Care Index, which assesses the same for regenerative grazing on permanent grassland. The evaluated parameters are the levels of each practice for both plant and animal production.

The individual parameters are divided into three categories, A, B and C, with a numerical value of 3, 2 and 1. All the considered parameters have their merits, but some are more important than others for the function of regenerative agriculture, so we have grouped them according to their overall importance. The individual parameters are further broken down into five levels, which range from practices unrelated to regenerative agriculture to its ideal representation, while also having their own numerical expression of 0 to 1.

The overall index is expressed as a value from 0-100, which is the sum of the values of the individual parameters. The index is evaluated annually.

  • The index score must be between 50 and 69 to earn a bronze medal. A bonus of +10% is added to the basic reward per tonne of carbon dioxide captured.
  • An index score between 70 and 84 earns a silver medal and a +20% increase in the basic reward.
  • Earning a gold medal with a score between 85 and 100 is rewarded with an increase of +30% above the basic reward.
  • No bonus is awarded if the total index score does not exceed 50.

Developing the index and defining key parameters

In developing the index, we drew upon the five core principles of regenerative agriculture (which are described in more detail here and here). We worked on identifying a form of farming activity that would best represent each principle and developed a five-level scale for each parameter, which would be simple yet all-encompassing. Finally, we set up a fair calculation of the overall index score.

In terms of the parameters themselves, in crop production we defined 5 basic parameter categories, namely: soil cultivation, crop representation, cover crops, synthetic pesticide use and mineral fertiliser use. For grazing, there are 3 basic categories: moving frequency, animal diversity and water source availability.


Biodiversity and its effect on the climate

Climate change, the chemicalization of the environment and the associated decline in biodiversity appear to be a vicious spiral with no way out. Agriculture, and especially its intensification beginning in the 20th century, has contributed its fair share to the current state of the world. The use of synthetic pesticides, the intensive and frequent tillage of the soil and the production and application of mineral fertilisers have led to a decline in the biodiversity of plants, insects, birds and other species. Even though intensive agriculture has contributed (and still is) to deepening the chasm we are standing on, it is precisely what can save us and the planet, given that we do not want to abandon our current standards of living.

Specifically, we are speaking about farming systems that use minimal tillage, apply limited or no pesticides, use organic fertilisers instead of mineral fertilisers, plant cover crops and utilise permanent vegetative cover on the soil surface. These activities play an important role in maintaining and enhancing local biodiversity while also providing sufficient production yields to fill human demand.

Given that advanced biodiversity is a widely used indicator of the complexity, stability and thus overall health of an ecosystem, it is more than appropriate that management practices that contribute to biodiversity conservation and, ultimately, to mitigating climate change should be promoted as much as possible.

Interested in the article and want to know more details about the index? Or are you interested in more details about working with us? Contact us at We would be happy to discuss the topic with you individually.

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