Regenerative Agriculture: Definition

What is the definition of regenerative agriculture? Is regenerative agriculture very different from organic agriculture, permaculture or other forms of sustainable agriculture? What principles does regenerative agriculture use? Let’s find out. 

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Definition Of Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture brings together a set of agricultural practices whose primary objective is to naturally enhance soil quality. In other words, to restore the fertility of diseased or exhausted soils. These practices are largely based on natural and ancient farming traditions around the world, but also on modern research and innovations in sustainable agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture is particularly useful in arid places where the soil was subject to excessive conventional agriculture.  It also plays a significant role in the fight against global warming as it helps to retain and sequestrate CO2.

Examples of Regenerative Agriculture Practices

  • Working on cultivable land: by respecting the soil’s original structure, using adapted no-till techniques to protect micro-organisms and other earthworms, and trying as much as possible to keep soils covered to avoid erosion
  • Fertilization: use organic matter and compost of local origin, as well as humus (dark organic matter), to improve the land’s fertility and to regulate the atmosphere’s humidity
  • Biodiversity: use a variety of polycultures adapted to the soil and the local climate and responsibly handle their rotation and fallow
  • Treatments: regenerative agriculture uses organic phytosanitary inputs that are exclusively natural and biodegradable, as little as possible. It also introduces the environment to complementary species to allow a greater ecological balance and offers better protection against pests
  • Erosion control: regenerative agriculture uses hedgerows, filter dikes, and micro-dams to manage rainwater and groundwater maintenance.

Regenerative Agriculture: Differences With Organic Farming And Permaculture

Agro-ecology, permaculture, organic farming, conservation agriculture… all these are “analogs” of sustainable agriculture that share a large number of common practices, and regenerative agriculture is no exception. However, this kind of agriculture is characterized by its specific objectives and scope of action: soil regeneration.

Regenerative agriculture is different from permaculture as it consists of a much more comprehensive process of integrating all human activities (including agriculture) into the environment; by doing so through sustainable development and alongside the rules of natural ecosystems.

Concerning agro-ecology and more particularly organic farming, regenerative agriculture can be considered a sub-division, as it uses similar practices. Well-managed, regenerative agriculture does not just keep the soil’s quality, it improves its fertility (and therefore productivity) and makes efficient, natural and careful use of internal resources.

Unlike organic farming, regenerative agriculture does not necessarily prohibit the use of chemical pesticides. In fact, there are no specific rules that should be followed regarding regenerative agriculture practices. As a result, there is a range of practices where some farmers use pesticides up to a certain level while others do not.

The lack of labels clearly clarifying the rules of regenerative agriculture means that there is a diversity of practices: some use inputs, others do not. The overall philosophy is still to minimize the use.


Image credits to organic farming on Shutterstock