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Is Regenerative Agricultural worth trying?

As many of you know, the new hype in the community is the term "regenerative agriculture." What exactly is that? Of what I have gathered from my research it involves a farming and grazing method that limits any sort of soil tillage, works to implement cover crop rotations, and stresses to lower synthetic fertilizer and chemical pesticide application. A primary base to start with in regenerative agricultural is that you must no-till plant all crops no matter the case. This method stresses soil health and notes that any tillage kills off any healthy microorganisms or organic matter that supplements the porosity, water storage, and plant intake efficiency of your soil. No-till planting for long periods of time also breaks up any compaction and hard pans that have been at 5-10" in your soil from years of discing, field cultivating, etc. By breaking this pan the roots of your plants can grasp down deep in the soil and utilize nutrients that have not been available otherwise. This in turn allows you to apply less fertilizer, reduce costs, and become a more profitable farming operation.

Now as for the cover crops used in regenerative agriculture, it minimalizes any top soil erosion by never allowing bare soil to be at risk to heavy rains, washouts, or extreme winds. Many claim that cover crops can also limit chemical applications by blocking out any sunlight and seed spreading opportunity for weeds to grow.

The Rural Investor's take:

All these methods sound fine and dandy until you look at the downsides and risks of implementing regenerative agriculture in your own operation. First off, the operational risks are massive. What if we get a wet spring and are unable to kill off cover crops and get a period to plant? What if the weeds in my fields become resistant to chemicals due to more applications in order to suppress and burn down cover crops?

Also, for a typical farming operation in the Midwest you will have to no-till corn which is very challenging. You must have your machinery and practices set perfectly to make this work and then you may still have a disappointing stand of plants. First, you need to ensure that your furrow openers are sharp. You also have to perfect seeding depth and the location of your now rows especially if planting corn on corn. You must also consider a residue moving attachment or other equipment that may help in ensuring the proper close of the seed trench. Overall, no-till planting corn is an art in itself.

Lastly, the biggest problem I see in regenerative agriculture is the long period of time it takes to convert your soils and see the benefits that this practice offers. It may take multiple years if not a decade to see the organic matter and nutrient efficiency characteristics that is so heavily hyped about with this new practice. Most farmers can't risk being unprofitable for 1 and especially not multiple years in this high interest rate/high production cost environment.

My plan myself is to implement this practice to a very small percentage of my own farm to put it to the test. My plan is to only put 5% of my total acreage into a method that represents what is considered "Regenerative Agriculture."

-Thanks for listening to me blab about farming. If you have any other topics related to agriculture or not at all, please feel free to subscribe and email me at!

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