Principles of Regenerative Agriculture - Continued

Marek Pytlík
November 11, 2021
Regenerative agriculture

Principle 3: Increase biodiversity

It is essential to encourage and enable diversity of all life forms, not only of the crops grown, but also of soil microbes, insects, birds, wildlife and livestock. The greater the diversity, the greater the positive impact.

Species-rich communities are close to nature, unlike monocultures that are human-made. Since diversity in the soil is due to diversity above ground, it is essential to cultivate the richest possible mixtures of intercrops.

Greater species diversity of cultivated plants

  • increases the total plant mass
  • increases the diversity of the edaphon
  • maximizes energy uptake from the sun (different leaf size shapes - higher LAI - leaf area index)

Each plant species has its own specific chemical composition of root exudates and their excretion into the soil promotes diversity of soil microorganisms. Root exudates of spring plants are rich in sugars, Leguminosae in proteins and, for example, buckwheat and lupin produce organic acids that improve phosphorus availability. Therefore, species-rich mixtures of plants provide a balanced diet of sugars, proteins and nutrients that allow for high growth and diversity of microbial populations.

Principle 4: Live roots throughout the year

Keeping living roots in the soil, that is, growing continuously, is important because live roots feed the soil microbes, which in turn promote plant growth. This maximizes the possible supply of carbon to the soil, in the form of various plant metabolites. This process, however, only works if the above ground plant is photosynthetically active. This is the only way that the primary energy of the sun in the form of carbon compounds reaches the soil through the roots to the microorganisms. It is therefore necessary to eliminate periods when no vegetation grows on the plot to a minimum.


Principle 5: Involving livestock

Bringing livestock onto the land and mimicking the impact of wandering and grazing herds is an imitation of how most landscapes and fertile soils around the world have been shaped. Livestock are an integral part of the nutrient cycle and the digestive system of cows is populated approximately 50% by bacteria found in the soil, thus reintroducing these beneficial bacteria and nutrients back into the environment through grazing and excretion.

The impact of cattle grazing is a key aspect in the holistic concept of regenerative agriculture, which increases and accelerates soil regeneration, dramatically increases the organic matter content and the number and status of micro-sediment in the soil. Plants respond to grazing by secreting more root exudates into the soil to support the soil microbiota, which in turn provides them with mineral elements that help the plant to grow. Regenerative grazing is the practice of improving soil quality by grazing animals on perennial and annual forages and crops in a way that promotes ecosystem health and mimics as closely as possible the grazing patterns of large herds of herbivores.

Regenerative grazing is typically characterized by

  • high stocking densities
  • frequent changes of paddock
  • long recovery times
  • low to no synthetic inputs
  • increased diversity of plant, animal and microbial life

The principle is to divide the overall pasture into many sub-ranges which will be gradually made available to the cattle. It is very important not to overgraze the individual paddocks, i.e. always keeping a certain amount of biomass in them and then moving the cattle to a new paddock. This is because the plants are not as weakened by this method of grazing and grow back quicker, while at the same time not breaking the cooperation with the soil microbiome.

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