Regenerative farming can work in all farming systems, explained leading agronomist Helen Dent, Kite Consulting, at last week’s (6 July) Down to Earth event in Cumbria.
She explained to visitors the fundamental principles and how they should think of feeding their soil the same way they think of feeding their cows. “In both cases, you are feeding microbes,” she said.
She broke down the principles of regenerative farming into four key areas for farmers to focus on. They were:
- Minimise soil disturbance- both chemically and physically
“A lot of soils are not ready for min till,” she explained. “It’s important you move to min till gradually. Look at your soil and find out what needs doing. The start is only doing what is necessary.”
- Crop diversity
“The microbiology in the soil wants to eat something different. Different plant roots produce different sugars, and the microbes feeding off those sugars give back nutrients to the roots. The more roots in the soil, the more you support the soil microbiology,” she added.
- Keep the soil covered and have a living root all year
Maize is often a plant blamed for contributing to runoff and erosion. Ms Dent explained how it was possible to grow maize without leaving soils bare between rows and cultivations. “Strip tilling can be used to introduce maize, and it can also be under-sown, which helps fit the crop into a regen system. It not only makes fields more resilient, but you can have a ready-made cover crop, leading to less nitrogen leaching and providing either a winter grazing or early spring cut.
“Think of the ground as a solar panel and the green leaves are used to harvest the sunlight into energy,” she added.
- Integrate stock
Livestock have an important role ensuring the regeneration of soil vegetative cover and mineral recycling in grassland ecosystems.