top of page

Regenerative Agriculture

A short introduction to regenerative agriculture, and it's benefits.

One of the biggest challenges we face today is the climate crisis. Right now there is a big focus on green energy production as a way to solve this issue, however another solution stands right below our feet: soil.

Mother nature already has its own way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere: plants take in carbon from the atmosphere and it is absorbed by Microorganisms. They capture this carbon and keep it locked up in the soil. Microorganisms are what feed plants nutrients and eventually these nutrients make their way into our diets, keeping us healthy. Sadly, humans are disrupting this natural phenomenon. Industrial agricultural practices are heavily reliant on two destructive practices: the chemical spraying of pesticide and use of tilling. Industrial agriculture does not promote the health of soils, it erodes soil and destroys the microorganisms within them, slowly turning rich healthy soil into dust and arable farming land into barren deserts. Over decades long periods, soil that once lay the foundations for luscious green fields are turned into cracked, dry and desolate environments, hostile to any plants struggling to survive. This devastating process is known amongst the scientific community as “Desertification”. This process is widespread, currently one third of the world is becoming desertified2. Desertification releases the carbon in the soil and prevents the carbon capture properties of microorganisms from functioning1.

This even interrupts the natural water cycle and leads to less rainfall in the area each year; not to mention making the food we eat less nutritious. Health impacts of pesticide use to people are also of high concern. The overuse of cancer causing chemicals has led to the infiltration of these poisons into our diets and drinking water, by seeping down through the soil into aquifers1.

The answer to this problem is simple: an emerging form of agriculture which focuses on helping soil to thrive rather than destroying it. This is called ‘Regenerative Agriculture’. Not only does this practice reduce Carbon in the atmosphere, but it has proven to be much more profitable to farmers. It reinforces soil, making it stronger against forms of erosion such as flooding and benefits the farmer, the earth and the consumers of the crop. This article is going to convey the science behind the negative impacts of industrial agricultural practice and then explain what regenerative agriculture is and it’s benefits. It’s aim is a call to action, for a shift away from conventional agricultural methods to one which works together with Earth's natural processes and creates resilient arable land, all the while reducing atmospheric levels of carbon.

Pesticide history and use:

Industrial agriculture uses a huge amount of pesticides. Pesticides were developed as a result of war. Fritz Harber, a German scientist is responsible for the creation of pesticides, a form of poison initially used as the first chemical weapon in history. He then created the poisonous gasses used in the Holocaust. At the end of the war, US companies brought his poisons to America, rebranded them and used them for agricultural practices2. This masked the problem of soil degradation, as in the short term it provided crop yields regardless of whether farmers paid attention to the health of the soil. Over longer time periods however, this proved devastating to the health and wellbeing of soil, and interrupted natural processes which provide plants with nutrients and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Furthermore it is dangerous to our own health and the health of our children, most of the pesticides used end up transferring directly to babies through breastmilk. It’s effects on children are significant: “There are over 200 peer-reviewed studies that correlate the praying of toxic chemicals to effects like ADD in children, pediatric cancers and birth defects”2.

Pesticides and their effect on microorganisms:

Healthy soil contains an entire hidden world of living organisms. In fact, the amount of people on earth only adds up to 5% of the total mass of microflora and fauna in the ground. A single gram of soil contains between 1 and 100 million bacteria1. Bacteria are responsible for maintaining the soil particles, a necessary process in soil and crop fertility. Pesticides are responsible for the “killing of beneficial nontarget organisms involved in nutrient retention and recycling” and furthermore disrupt soil chemistry, PH levels and soil aggregation1. The soil then becomes less resilient, and more prone to the negative impacts of erosion. The non-targeted micro-organisms that are killed off by pesticide use are vital to plant respiration, cell growth and photosynthesis. Algae and cyanobacteria are responsible for maintaining ecological equilibrium in soil, they have the ability to draw in and store both atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide, key greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. The use of herbicide severely decreases their activities and “significantly reduces” their populations1.

Impact of tilling

Another major practice in industrial agriculture is tilling. This is when a farmer prepares soil for seeding and involves ploughing through and digging up soil to loosen it. Tilling has three major negative impacts on soils: their ability to capture carbon, the presence of topsoil and exposure to erosion. Soils account for the largest terrestrial (land based) pool of Carbon storage on Earth. 12% of soil carbon is held in cultivated soils, meaning that these contribute hugely to impacts on the climate3. If they are managed correctly, they can help to store vast amounts of carbon, if managed badly, this carbon is released into the atmosphere. Tillage does precisely that. Exposing the upturned soil to erosive forces such as wind means that the carbon inside the soils are more likely to end up in the atmosphere. This means that tillage can actually increase atmospheric carbon levels, but correct maintenance of land can have the opposite effect3. Tillage also has a negative effect on soil life. In simple terms, churning up the soil exposes it to wind and heavy rainfall. When these elements pass over land, they often take the soil with it, removing topsoil which is crucial for farmers to grow their crops. From this perspective tillage is not only negative for the atmosphere but for the farmers livelihoods in the long run. According to the United Nations “the world's remaining topsoil will be gone within 60 years”[2] as a direct consequence of tillage. This translates directly to the statistic that if industrial agriculture persists, we have 60 harvests left until we no longer have arable land to grow crops on, presenting a huge problem for food security worldwide[2].

A call to action: regenerative agriculture

After reading these statistics, you may feel that there is no way to stop this massive looming problem, but in reality there is, and farmers can provide the solution! This next half of the article talks about regenerative agriculture and its benefits to farmers and the environment. ‘Regeneration’ is the renewal or restorage of a body or biological system2. Regenerative agriculture focuses on bettering the life and quality of the soil by allowing natural processes

to take place. This is done in 4 main ways: the stopping of tillage, promotion of species diversity (non monoculture farms), integration of livestock grazing and cover crops.

Instead of traditional methods, farmers use a system where they nurture topsoil instead of harming it through the use of no-till drills. These drills cut small slits into the soil and gently deposit seeds into them, leaving most of the topsoil intact. This practice protects the soil from the powerful forces of wind and water erosion. It also absorbs more water, meaning even in a year of low rainfall, crops are more likely to survive. This gives farmers a sense of peace and calm; their crops are safe even when the environment becomes hostile. The increased storage of water in untilled soil gives birth to microbe populations, growth of plants and even more local rainfall. Land that is already dying can be even given life. The plants provide a hidden pool of water, in an otherwise dry landscape. They are thirsty, and beckon clouds to find them through an invisible stream leading to the sky. The cycle is self-perpetuating, and forms a positive feedback loop bringing much needed rain for growing crops. It is called the cycle of regeneration2. Furthermore, “For every 1% increase in organic matter, an acre of soil draws down 10 more tonnes of carbon”2. This means that the cycle of regeneration also is responsible for pulling more carbon out of the atmosphere, a small step towards solving the climate crisis.

Species diversity is when multiple species of plant are grown in the same area. What this does is enhance the life and function of the soil. Plants used for this function are known as cover crops. These crops grow in places which would normally be left bare by the farmer, which results in erosion and starves soil of nutrients. Monocrop culture is currently the most popular form of farming and involves growing only one species. This results in the soil only being fed a single kind of exudate (fluids emitted through plant roots). Soil is like any other living thing, if you only fed a person bread, they would lack other key nutrients and become ill. Feeding the soil a variety of nutrients means that it becomes more healthy and grows faster, accelerating biological time2.

It is key to understand that animals grazing on land is an important part of the carbon cycle. Livestock tramples down on the soil, locking up the carbon within. Over time the land recovers, and the process repeats each year, storing more and more carbon. Nowadays, livestock is kept separate from crop farms in feedlots, interrupting this natural process. With regenerative agriculture, livestock can graze freely on the cover crop during winter, decreasing the time it takes for soils to regenerate. This also means no crops have to be grown specifically for the cattle. Feedlots increase greenhouse gas emissions, which is why many people blame livestock as major methane contributors to the atmosphere. However this is somewhat of a myth, in situations where livestock are allowed to graze, the overall output of emissions is less than that of the amount of gasses stored in the soil through sequestration, meaning cattle can be beneficial to the environment.

At this point you may be asking if this is actually profitable for the farmers, the answer is that it is. There were two major factors that lead to higher profitability for farmers in a 2018 study on the profitability of regenerative agriculture4 on corn yields: decreased cost of fertilisation and pesticide and increased revenue from external products such as meat production and grain. Regenerative practices promote biodiversity. This means that there are many more insects and animals which naturally control pest populations. Furthermore monocrop culture and pesticide use allow pests to slowly adapt to the pesticide, meaning farmers must pay

more and more to fight them off. However when they are exposed to natural land with many more predators, they are not able to adapt and flourish in those environments. Regenerative agriculture does result in a lower crop yield, in the case of corn, this can be up to 29% less4. However, this is offset so much by a lack of external costs which are needed for industrial agriculture that it ends up being “nearly twice as profitable as the conventional corn farms”4.

In conclusion, I strongly believe that there must be a fundamental shift in agricultural practices that promotes regeneration, biodiversity and the health of soil. The soil is home to an entire world of organisms, and when this fragile ecosystem is treated well and permitted to thrive by those who care for it, it gives back to us. This form of agriculture is beneficial to everyone; the farmers, the land, the atmosphere and our own health. If we work together, and spread awareness of this initiative, we can work together with nature to begin to reverse some of the harmful damage we have done to our planet.

Citation list

1. Kalia, Anu, and S.K Gosal. “Effect of Pesticide Application on Soil Microorganisms.” Taylor & Francis, 2011,

2 Josh Tickell, Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017)

3. Haddaway, Neal Robert, et al. “How Does Tillage Intensity Affect Soil Organic Carbon? A Systematic Review Protocol - Environmental Evidence.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 25 Jan. 2016,

4. LaCanne1, Claire E., et al. “Regenerative Agriculture: Merging Farming and Natural Resource Conservation Profitably.” PeerJ, PeerJ Inc., 26 Feb. 2018,

Benefits to the environment

Carbon Sequestration

Less pesticide use

Project Gallery




Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 1.12.21 pm.png
Screenshot 2022-06-21 at 10.07.44 pm.png


bottom of page