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Summary - Starting / Enhancing Your Regenerative Agriculture Journey

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

Cows Resting, Well Satisfied after a Morning Graze

While there is lots of information and courses about various aspects of soil health and regenerative agriculture, it is difficult to find a simple ‘starter’ package for someone who needs to, or is interested in, making the change from ‘modern’ agriculture to a way of farming that enhances and expedites what nature does.

There is no one way to undertake regenerative agriculture, nor can there be due to the many variables and multiple agricultural pursuits. There is no one product or machine to use. But there are some guiding fundamentals that pioneers have established over 30 years or more.

This slide show is an adjunct to a ‘manual’ that explains these points and provides an extensive list of resources for further learning. This is not intended as a technical or scientific package but rather a simple way for you to quickly get the overall picture and get started. It also provides links to lots of further learning opportunities. It will not try to sell you anything. I promise.

Why Regenerative Agriculture

Many farmers have seen need for change after noting soil deterioration while others have needed to find a way to farm without the substantive costs

  • Major problems following 70 years of ‘modern’ agriculture

  • Minimal biology life in the soil after stronger fertilisers & chemicals & plowing

  • Plants become soluble fertiliser dependent and microbes redundant

  • Increased costs of inputs especially chemical fertilisers

  • Destruction of soil structure, bare soil, limited water penetration & retention

  • Soil acidity, minerals tied up in soil, toxic aluminium becomes soluble

  • Soil compaction, loss of topsoil through water and wind erosion

  • Important soil carbon released into atmosphere by chemicals and plowing

  • Removal of animals for more grain growing has reduced nutrient input

How to Start Your Regenerative Agriculture Journey

  • Identify where you and your farm are right now - start some simple testing

  • Form some idea of where you would like you and your farm to be in the future

  • Start to transition away from past practices especially chemicals and plowing

  • Learn from the pioneers - see links to resources for information

  • Identify a few areas to start trialling your new techniques

  • Purchase inputs especially liquid sea minerals or other sea mineral product

  • Apply inputs and sow diverse cover crops or organise suitable contractor/s

  • Focus on flocculating the soil, overcoming compaction, rotational grazing

  • Spray microbial and fungal extracts

  • Start to look for signs of improvement especially under the soil surface

Regenerative Agriculture is a Journey, Not a Destination

Current Soil Status - Tests You Can Do Yourself

  • Soil Structure Test - dig hole, check for soil aggregates

  • Soil Smell Test - does it have a sweet, earthy smell

  • Extent of Root Growth Test - volume of roots

  • Root Structure & Depth Test - variety, depth, rhizosphere

  • Earthworm Count Test - count number in 300 x 300 x 300

  • Earthworm Food Test - dead organic matter on and below surface

  • Soil Colour Test - dark suggests soil organic carbon

  • Cow Pat Test - signs of dung beetle and dung worms

  • Subsoil Compaction Test - penetrometer or 10mm steel rod

  • Moisture Penetration Test - time how long it takes

  • Soil Coverage & Plant Diversity Test - no bare soil, lots of plant diversity

  • Soil Minerals Test - likely deficient if chemicals / artificial fertilisers used

  • Soil Acidity Test - likely acidic if chemicals used and no worms evident

  • Microbe Presence Test - few likely if chemicals used - EC Meter reading

  • Brix Test - sap sugar reading - Brix Meter / Refractometer

Record results, take photos to enable comparison with future testing and assessing improvement over time.

Useful Testing / Monitoring Equipment

  • Soil thermometer (Sub-soil temperature)

  • Refractometer (Brix Reading)

  • Penetrometer (Soil Compaction)

  • Soil Probe (check soil profile at depth without digging a hole)

  • Soil Microbiome Meter / EC meter (Electrical Conductivity, microbe presence)

  • Shovel (to check soil structure, root development, earthworms etc)

  • Metal / PVC tube about 100mm diameter and 100-150mm long (water infiltration)

  • Microscope / magnifying glass / camera (with zoom to view photos close up)

  • And a good nose to smell the soil!!!

This equipment is comparatively cheap and if not available from your local rural stockist, can be purchased online.

Fundamentals of Regenerative Agriculture

Gabe Brown - North Dakota in US - a leading pioneer with 30 years experience

Gabe’s Five Fundamentals

  1. Minimal Soil Disturbance

  2. Maintaining ‘Armour’ on the Soil Surface

  3. Diversity of growing plants at any one time - no monoculture

  4. Living Roots in the Soil as long as Possible - no bare ground

  5. Animal Impact and diversity where possible - rotational grazing

Further Ways to Expedite Regeneration

  • Drive Your Regenerative Agriculture Journey into the 'Fast Lane' (if you want to) - greater and faster benefit from doing more things in short time frame

  • Soil Minerals - Achieving Readily Available Full Spectrum Nutrition

  • Apply Liquid Sea Minerals or other Sea Mineral Extract - increased soil, plant and animal health - improved electrical conductivity overcomes compaction

  • Earthworms - important contributors to soil health

  • Inoculate all Seed for a Strong Start for Growth for pasture & crops

  • Sow seed with source of microbes and carbon - eg WormHit Pellets

  • Foliar spray with microbial and fungal extracts - proprietary and/or self-made

  • Allow adequate rest periods between grazing events - plant recovery

  • Air in the Soil is Essential for Life - free nitrogen from the atmosphere

  • Humus Formation from liquid soil carbon can be a lasting benefit

  • Biochar's Potential to Enhance the Carbon Cycle - a home for microbes

  • Increasing Brix Brings Many Rewards

  • Water / Moisture Best Stored in the Soil - flocculate soil

What Will Start to Happen

  • Life will start to return to the soil, worms and rhizosphere being several of the more obvious while invisible microbes and fungi will rapidly multiply

  • Soil will start to open up, aggregates will start to form, compaction diminished

  • Rainfall will penetrate more readily and penetrate more deeply

  • Plants will improve in Brix and be more nutritious for livestock

  • Cow dung will improve and better attract dung beetles and dung worms

  • Soil armour will start to improve protecting and insulating the soil

  • Root depth and density will increase and release liquid carbon

  • Soil pH will start to improve and previously locked up minerals will be freed up

  • Dormant seed bank will start to emerge further increasing plant diversity

  • Soil carbon will start to develop varying levels of humus

Increasing & Improving Soil Biology & Structure

Signs of Good Things Happening Above and Below the Soil Surface

What to Do After Initial Testing to Move Forward

  • Wean off chemicals over 2 - 3 years

  • Flocculate soil with sea minerals to renew electrical current and start to overcome soil compaction

  • Avoid wheel traffic in paddocks when soil is wet

  • Start to restore soil life - sow inoculated seed for diverse cover / forage crop with WormHit Pellets

  • Spray diverse cover / forage crop periodically with likes of NutriSoil, compost tea and fungal extract to enhance soil biology

  • No bare soil, introduce animals where possible

  • Periodically repeat testing to monitor progress

Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture

  • Reduced soil compaction makes more soil available, increases topsoil

  • Healthier soil with increased air, mineral availability and biology

  • Better rain penetration and retention for extended growth

  • Greater resilience and less drought impact reduce risk

  • More nutritious plant growth for healthier stock and less vet visits

  • Increased Brix for stronger, more resilient plant growth and less pest issues

  • Restricted use of chemicals encourages beneficial insects to return

  • Reduced costs and better bottom line

  • Less stress and more enjoyment in farming operations

  • Improving farm for future generations, improving environment

There are so many elements involved in regenerating your farm both above and below ground. You may well wonder how it all fits together. Well, the beauty of this is you don't need to know the full complexity of nature on your farm, rather, having a basic understanding of the things outlined above supplemented by reference to appropriate links in the ‘Helpful Websites, Podcasts and Webinars’ and Beneficial Books blog in due course, it will be adequate for you to make amazing progress on your regenerative agriculture journey. Remember, soil is not just dirt for holding and growing plants with NPK but rather it is the enabler of every function intended by nature to facilitate all the cycles of existence - the carbon, nitrogen, water and mineral cycles, the Soil Food Web, photosynthesis etc. If any of these is compromised, in due course all will be compromised. Similarly, enhancing one may well benefit the others but enhancing all in a short time frame will lead to the greatest, fastest and most beneficial regeneration of your farm.

Extensive, Healthy Roots & Rhizosphere on New Plants

Improving Soil & Pasture, Strong & Healthy Heifers/Cows

And Remember . . . .

Regenerative Agriculture is a Journey,

Not a Destination

Enjoy Your Journey!

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Jan 28, 2023

Well done wish I had more land to regenerate

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