5 Regenerative Farming Techniques Explained

Regenerative farming techniques are; waste-to-energy conversion with subsequent biochar application, holistic grazing management, silvopastoral livestock farming, whole-organic cropping, and minimal tillage with drip irrigation.

This article discusses regenerative farming techniques, as follows;




1). Waste-to-Energy Conversion with subsequent Biochar Application (as one of the Regenerative Farming Techniques)

Waste-to-energy conversion is simply the act and process of transforming organic biomass waste materials either directly to energy, or to biofuel; which is an energy storage medium.

In regenerative agriculture, waste-to-energy conversion methods like pyrolysis and torrefaction can be integrated into large farming projects as a means of treating waste while ensuring that ecologic sustainability is established on the farm.

Most thermal waste-to-energy processes and facilities are known to emit greenhouse gases [4].

However, in regenerative farming, the net amount of greenhouse gases emitted is minimal due to the effect of carbon sequestration and other decarbonization measures involved.

The main solid residue from thermal waste-to-energy conversion is biochar, which is very useful as an organic fertilizer and source of nutrients for soil conservation and replenishment purposes [3].

Applying biochar from waste-to-energy conversion, to the soil, is a good regenerative farming technique because it imitates the concept of bioenergy transfer that occurs across the trophic levels of the energy pyramid of natural ecosystems like forests.

The application of biochar as a soil amendment also has a similar effect as the accumulation of plant and animal biomass that serves as organic fertilizer in natural ecosystems.

Waste-to-energy is regenerative because it encourages active recycling of resources in such a manner that mitigates resource depletion and similar environmental problems associated with human activities.

The biochar that is reused as fertilizer represents the recycling of nutrients that are then consumed by plants during the regeneration of biomass and energy.

Regenerative Farming Techniques: Waste-to-Energy Conversion with subsequent Biochar Application (Credit: USDA 2022)
Regenerative Farming Techniques: Waste-to-Energy Conversion with subsequent Biochar Application (Credit: USDA 2022)



2). Holistic Grazing Management

Holistic grazing management is a broad form of holistic planned grazing, that aims to protect the ecosystem, preserve biodiversity and mitigate unfavorable environmental impacts, by regulating livestock grazing in such a manner that mimics the adaptive behaviors of herbivorous wildlife and their synergistic relationship with the ecosystem.

Usually, holistic grazing management is conducted based on sustainable agricultural practices like rotational grazing and crop rotation, which adopt a conservative approach to achieve ecologic sustainability.

As a regenerative farming technique, holistic grazing management can be credited with a high level of flexibility and adaptability, that both result in the full ecologic harmonization of livestock with their environment, and increase in biological productivity.



3). Silvopastoral Livestock Farming (as one of the Regenerative Farming Techniques)

Silvopastoral farming is a system of farming that operates by integrating forest vegetation (trees, shrubs) with forage crops and livestock on the same land [2].

It is regenerative because the co-habitation of crops, trees and livestock establishes a degree of biodiversity that is essential for ecologic sustainability.

Benefits of the practice include improvement of soil carbon sequestration capacity, biological control, climate change-adaptation, and biodiversity enhancement.



4). Whole-Organic Cropping

Whole organic cropping is the basis of organic cropping system; which is a system of agriculture that aims to minimize the use of synthetic materials and methods for crop management, rather replacing these with sustainable alternatives from organic sources.

In whole organic cropping, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are completely replaced with compost, crop residue and biological control methods/materials respectively [1].

This approach leads to an increase in the natural regeneration capacity of farms, since all materials used are capable of being replaced or replenished naturally.

Organic cropping may also incorporate other sustainable agricultural principles and practices like permaculture, biodynamic farming, and conservation tillage.

The primary products of whole-organic cropping are whole-organic foods, which are of significantly-higher nutritional quality than conventional agricultural products.



5). Minimal Tillage with Drip Irrigation (as one of the Regenerative Farming Techniques)

Minimal tillage in agriculture is the practice of conserving soil by reducing all forms of mechanical disturbance that could affect physicochemical and biochemical equilibrium, as well as alter the trend of processes like carbon sequestration and biodegradation.

The effect of minimal tillage is mainly soil conservation, which occurs in the form of moisture retention-capacity increase, soil biodiversity optimization, and fertility improvement, among others.

When practiced in combination with drip irrigation which is arguably the most sustainable type of irrigation, minimal tillage can boost ecologic resilience on farms.

One of the biggest advantages of drip irrigation is its role in soil conservation. Others include its versatility and adaptability.

Drip irrigation system is good for uneven land, because it is characterized by minimal water usage and broad areal reach; both of which are essential to distribute water evenly across such irregular landscapes without wastage or consequent soil degradation.

The versatility and adaptability of drip irrigation imply that it is suitable for implementation across a wide range of climatic and geographic conditions, including areas prone to desertification and drought.

However, it also has some disadvantages.

The disadvantages of drip irrigation are; high capital cost, technical skill-requirement, probable mismanagement, and need for regular maintenance of equipment.

It can be argued that the potential of drip irrigation to optimize agriculture increases when combined with other conservative practices like minimal tillage; as this results in multiplied conservation and yield rates.

Regenerative Farming Techniques: Minimal Tillage with Drip Irrigation (Credit: K-State Research and Extension 2015 .CC BY 2.0.)
Regenerative Farming Techniques: Minimal Tillage with Drip Irrigation (Credit: K-State Research and Extension 2015 .CC BY 2.0.)




Regenerative farming techniques are;

1. Waste-to-Energy Conversion with subsequent Biochar Application

2. Holistic Grazing Management

3. Silvopastoral Livestock Farming

4. Whole-Organic Cropping

5. Minimal Tillage with Drip Irrigation




1). Cen, Y.; Guo, L.; Liu, M.; Gu, X.; Li, C.; Jiang, G. (2020). “Using organic fertilizers to increase crop yield, economic growth, and soil quality in a temperate farmland.” PeerJ 8(1):e9668. Available at: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9668. (Accessed 14 December 2022).

2). Jose, S.; Dollinger, J. (2019). “Silvopasture: a sustainable livestock production system.” Agroforestry Systems 93(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-019-00366-8. (Accessed 14 December 2022).

3). Rombel, A.; Curie-Sklodowska, M.; Krasucka, P.; Oleszczuk, P. (2021). “Sustainable biochar-based soil fertilizers and amendments as a new trend in biochar research.” Science of The Total Environment 816(131):151588. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151588. (Accessed 14 December 2022).

4). Xin, C.; Zhang, T.; Tsai, S-B.; Zhai, Y-M.; Wang, J. (2020). “An Empirical Study on Greenhouse Gas Emission Calculations Under Different Municipal Solid Waste Management Strategies.” Applied Sciences 10(5):1673. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/app10051673. (Accessed 14 December 2022).

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