We recommend watching these two videos from the Just Have a Think YouTube channel which explain how regenerative agriculture (or sustainable farming) works. It is divided into two parts.
Key issues are that disturbing the ground by ploughing/planting releases carbon dioxide, hence ‘no-dig’ methods prevent this and also are cheaper and you don’t need to drag a heavy plough through the ground. Artificial fertilizer also releases high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Tips are to just remove edible part of crops leaving roots and stems to rot down, then sow a cover crop after harvesting such as oats or vetch to suck up more CO2 or a companion crop after planting such as clover or buckwheat that complements cash crop. Organic matter encourages worms to break up the soil helping to remove need for plough and reducing fuel bills. Avoid compacting earth with heavy machinery to accelerate process. The organic matter breaks down increasing fertility of the soil reducing the need for artificial fertilizer and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The radio 4 episode from 39 Ways to save the planet on carbon cutting farms gives more detail.
Positive examples are provided by a new law in Wales that promotes sustainable farming and rewards farmers for protecting nature.
This video also provides more information on the destructive environmental impacts of artificial fertilizer and alternatives that produce fertilizer that actually captures carbon dioxide.
The documentary Kiss the Ground on Netflix gives more information on regenerative farming and their website provides lots of resources.
Our experts have classified this solution as ‘low hanging fruit’ (relatively low cost / quick win).
Climate impact: tonnes of carbon saved/removed
Hundreds of millions of tonnes per year.
Crucial for food supply as well Carbon Dioxide Removal.
Social justice i.e. addresses inequalities, diversity, inclusion
Helps rural communities of all types.
Cost of action needed to progress goal
High, as the land areas are large.
Which location is the solution most needed/applicable
Agricultural areas with heavy chemical use.
Already being done, just needs more widespread application.
Interested in progressing this solution further?
Actions for policymakers
Make funding for farmers conditional on carbon cutting measures. End tax breaks on farm diesel. Follow example of the Welsh government’s agricultural bill which supports sustainable farming and land management.
Actions for funding bodies
Fund projects to develop reliable metrics of soil carbon enabling s can measure improvement. Research methane cutting innovations and disseminate across sector.
Actions for business
Farmers: adopt regenerative farming methods: dry farming, cover crops, no tilling. Purchase animal feed that reduces amount of methane produced during digestions e.g. seaweed supplements show promise. Set up forums and training programmes to disseminate regenerative farming across the sector. For example, for Gofarm or Farmers Footprint in the US. Explore opportunities for turning farm waste into regenerative fuel
Actions for public
Ask supermarkets to label produce to enable responsible consumption of more planet friendly products, e.g carbon footprint of meat and dairy products. Support proposed regulations to make farming more sustainable e.g. https://www.csg.org/2022/09/07/the-farm-bill-what-will-2023-bring/ Support school-based and/or community gardens, buy in-season, know your local farmer, buy locally, volunteer with local food distribution groups such as Gofarm.