What is regenerative agriculture? This term has been buzzing around the sustainability sphere in recent years in the same way our honey bees buzz around their favorite flowers. In essence, regenerative agriculture is the collection of farming practices designed to improve soil health and reduce carbon emissions. And it’s not only making a positive impact on the planet, but also on the bottom line of the farmers who participate in regenerative agriculture. Learn how this sustainability practice is impacting various agriculture industries, including hemp.
What exactly is regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative, as a general term, refers to something being formed, created, or restored. With regards to agriculture, it’s the soil itself that is experiencing this regeneration. Regenerative agriculture fundamentally promotes the sustained health and life of soil over long periods of time, but there are other environmental impacts, too.
Regenerative agriculture practices can include composting, holistic planned grazing, no-till farming practices, using biochar, pasture cropping, cover cropping, and focusing on crop rotation, as well as silvopasture or the practice of integrating forestry and livestock management.
Ultimately, these farming practices help rebalance and regenerate organic matter and microbial activity of the soil. Microorganisms help organic material decompose but also detoxify the soil from chemicals and stimulate plant growth. They also play a major role in suppressing organisms that promote disease as well as providing the basis for most of the antibiotic medicines used to treat said diseases.
So basically - microbial life and organic matter in topsoil are important, and regenerative agricultural helps us help them do their thing.
Not to get all apocalyptic, but...
Soil scientists predict that the current destructive practices of decarbonization, erosion, desertification, and chemical pollution will cause serious damage to public health within the next 50 years.
Our food supply will eventually become significantly less nutritious and lack critical trace minerals. It will also eventually land us without enough produce-yielding topsoil to be able to sustain the food supply needed for the number of people living on Earth.
Regenerative agriculture is an effort to combat that prediction, maintain biodiversity, and keep global warming under control. It’s not only a good idea, it’s a necessary pathway to take if we want to preserve our planet for current and future generations.
Improving the land with regenerative agriculture
The main element that makes something fall into the category of “regenerative agriculture” is that it not only “does no harm” but actually improves the quality of the land.
Regenerative agriculture practices result in healthier soil, which can produce more nutrient-rich food and ultimately support healthy communities, economies, and the world. It works to create a symbiotic ecosystem for all elements involved in the food growing and production process, from permaculture to mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping.
The primary pillars of regenerative agriculture are:
Support the soil
A successful regenerative agricultural system will build and maintain soil’s microbial life, enhancing its ability to reuse nutrients and retain water.
Absorb carbon from the atmosphere
Natural biodiversity promotes absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and returning it to the soil.
Utilize a waste-free system
Regenerative agriculture models focus on closed-loop systems. This essentially adheres to the concept that the “waste” from one process should provide energy for another component of the system, so there is no real waste product created.
Regenerative agriculture aims to achieve the greatest positive environmental impact through the least amount of energy expenditure. It also aims to maximize food production, minimize cost per acre of farming, and revitalize the topsoil to allow these benefits to be sustainable throughout subsequent growing seasons.
At Bluebird Botanicals, we partner with hemp farms that follow regenerative agriculture practices like utilizing drip irrigation systems, reusing drip irrigation lines, sourcing water from rainfall instead of pulling from the river, and using clover as a cover crop. Bluebird also continually supports our farming partners in working toward adopting additional practices to support carbon sequestration.
What does this mean for hemp specifically?
So regenerative agriculture is not only a good idea, but an essential one for protecting Mother Earth. What does it mean for the hemp and CBD industry specifically?
Regenerative agriculture is a sort of natural step for the hemp industry at large. Hemp, a bioaccumulator, has been used for years in efforts to detoxify the soil, including in phytoremediation done at the Chernobyl nuclear site. Hemp is poised to be a key participant in the evolving practice of regenerative agriculture as this becomes more widespread at farms across the U.S. and the world.
Hemp can also benefit from the reduced costs and enhanced efficiency associated with this system. While hemp is virtually a “crop as old as time,” its industry is a budding one without supportive insurance policies. Any financially-supportive farming practice is a potentially huge bolster for hemp.
Bluebird Botanicals is proud to support sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices, and we aim to further reinforce these efforts with our farming partners as the hemp industry grows. After all, the ultimate way to make wellness radically accessible to all is to create a thriving, healthy, worldwide ecosystem.