Here is a statistic that might surprise you: Industrialized agriculture emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all forms of transportation combined. However, changes in farming techniques and crop selection can have powerful impacts on these factors. As a result, a tremendous movement to promote better environmental and soil health are in progress. Termed regenerative agriculture, these new farming approaches have the potential to go well beyond reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Interestingly, current agricultural practices involve many unsustainable strategies when it comes to the environment. Poor crop rotation, use of chemicals, and a lack of field protections all contribute to declining soil health. If changes are not made soon, this could mean marked reductions in food supply and nutritious foods. However, several companies are listening and investing in regenerative agriculture techniques. And in order to do our part, consumer support for these companies is encouraged.
What Exactly Is Regenerative Agriculture?
When it comes to soil health, many agricultural practices today are highly unsustainable. Corn and wheat dominate many agricultural fields, and many fail to rotate crops routinely. Corn, in particular, is among the worst in terms of releasing nitrates. And persistent monocultures don’t allow soils time to recover. As a result, nutrients are depleted, and soil health declines. This results in less nutrient-dense foods while pushing soils to their eventual limit. Combine this with herbicides, pesticides, and wind erosion of open fields, and a recipe for disaster emerges.
With this in mind, regenerative agriculture represents a broad term that encompasses many environmentally beneficial practices. These regenerative agriculture techniques include planting trees and structures to reduce wind erosion. They also include routine crop rotation and the avoidance of chemical use. And regenerative agriculture includes adding organic matter to enrich topsoil health. Not only can these pursuits reverse poor soil health, but they may also help reverse climate change as well.
Companies Jumping on the Regenerative Agricultural Bandwagon
At first thought, you might not think Lucky Charms cereal is a great choice when it comes to health. But General Mills, the maker of the sugary-sweetened cereal, has taken strides to source its cereals from regenerative agriculture farms. In fact, the oats in Lucky Charms is a better crop for soil health. And alternating oats with corn and wheat crops could have tremendous environmental impacts. Oats make up a small portion of U.S.-produced grains at the present time. But if companies like General Mils supported regenerative agriculture techniques using oat crop rotation, the impact could be significant. General Mills alone could save $5 million in environmental clean-up costs while dramatically reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
General Mills is not alone. Kellogg co-chairs the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, which is promoting regenerative agriculture strategies and data analytics. Campbell foods has long worked with tomato growers to promote better soil health through its Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. And Stonyfield participates in OpenTEAM, a platform that promotes individual tools for tracking soil health and climate mitigation to farmers. Seeing the value that regenerative agriculture brings to soil health and longevity, these corporations are becoming increasingly involved.
Regenerative Agriculture’s Promise for Good Soil Health
If companies and farmers embrace regenerative agriculture techniques, future impacts could be impressive. Foods would become more nutritionally dense. Soil health, as well as the flourishing of its microbiome, would improve. And water runoffs would drop substantially. But at the same time, regenerative agriculture could serve as a means to reverse current climate change. Newly created topsoil is 60 percent carbon and serves as a carbon reservoir. This would have profound effects on environmental sustainability and deserves strong consideration.
As consumers, the choices we make offer a way to support regenerative agriculture and better soil health. If goods produced by companies investing in regenerative agriculture techniques are purchased, these efforts are incentivized. And the more that these companies partner with farms and governments, better nutrition and agricultural products will emerge. While Lucky Charms cereal may not be a part of your diet, other foods produced by regenerative agriculture techniques may be. By supporting these good and companies, you may likely be promoting better soil health and environmental sustainability for the future.