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Soil Science and Regenerative Agriculture

[Soil - Quanta]

- Overview

Regenerative agriculture addresses climate change and contributes to food security by restoring soil, organic matter and biodiversity, and reducing atmospheric carbon. It is a comprehensive and evolving nature-based approach that improves topsoil, food production and farmer incomes. 

Regenerative agriculture offers solutions that transform farmers into environmental and social heroes. It promotes the health of degraded soils by restoring organic carbon. Regenerative agriculture absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reversing the impact of industrial agriculture on climate change. Regenerative practices such as no-till and cover cropping are reducing erosion and water pollution, resulting in healthier soils. 

The strong soils and diverse ecosystems created by organic practices produce higher-quality, nutrient-dense produce than conventional agriculture, resulting in productive farms, healthy communities, and thriving economies.


- Soil Science

Soil science is the study of soils as a natural resource on the Earth's surface, including soil formation, classification, and mapping; the physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils; and these properties as they relate to the use and management of soils.

Soil science involves the study of:

  • Soil formation, classification, and mapping
  • Soil's physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties
  • How these properties relate to the use and management of soils
  • How soil processes interact with wider systems

Soil science applies biology, chemistry, earth sciences, ecology, hydrology, mineralogy, mathematics, nutrition, toxicology, and physics. It's used to understand, sustain, and improve the environment.
Soil science is usually divided into two specialties: Agricultural soils, Environmental soils.
Soil science is a key ingredient in: climate models, advanced carbon-capture projects.

Soil scientists express concern about how to protect soil and cropland in a world of growing populations, potential future water crises, rising per capita food consumption and land degradation.


Vineyard Vines_122922A
[Vineyard Vines - Stanford University]

- Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a method of protecting and restoring food and agricultural systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biological sequestration, improving resilience to climate change, and enhancing the health and vitality of farm soils. 

Regenerative agriculture is not a specific practice in itself. Instead, proponents of regenerative agriculture use a combination of sustainable farming techniques. Practices include recycling as much farm waste as possible and adding compost material from off-farm. 

Regenerative agriculture for small farms and gardens is often based on concepts such as permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, critical design and holistic management. Large farms tend to be less philosophically driven and often use "no-till" and/or "reduced-till" practices. 

As soil health improves, input requirements may decrease, while crop yields may increase, as soils are more resistant to extreme weather and have fewer pests and pathogens. 

Most climate change mitigation plans focus on "reducing greenhouse gas emissions". Regenerative agriculture, the capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by growing plants that transfer carbon dioxide into the soil, is almost the only technology currently available to absorb greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, primarily through farming and cultivating forests and permanent perennial pastures and grassland.


- Traditional Soil Gardening

Soil can be a wonderful natural resource, but it can also be a very time-consuming element to manage when you're trying to grow plants.

Some soils have powerful and fertile living soil network ecosystems. However, many clay- or sand-rich soil structures present challenges with water, nutrient availability, and planting texture. Many sites lack soil access because they need to deal with concrete, asphalt or rock.

Soil loses fertility as crops grow due to water runoff, erosion, wind and other soil-consuming events. In order to grow plants in soil, it is necessary to reapply compost or other fertilizers every growing season. 

Fertilizers containing only N – P – K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) mean that growing plants will absorb these nutrients but may be depleted of other micronutrients such as calcium, boron, copper, iron, zinc, etc. Applying too much synthetic fertilizer or uncomposted manure can create salt problems that make the soil "too hot" to grow crops.

Managing weeds, pests, insects and diseases takes a lot of time from a gardener or farmer. Weeds crowd the plants, absorbing water and nutrients, not to mention wasting time killing or pulling them out. Pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals also kill precious soil microorganisms and pose a danger to bees, butterflies, birds, other animals and humans.

In large-scale industrial agriculture, agrochemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides) as well as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are of concern when selecting vegetables, fruits, and herbs. GMOs are not allowed on organically grown crops, but a variety of products do exist for pesticides.

The soil is difficult to water properly. Overwatering can cause flooding, evaporation, runoff, soil compaction, prevent air from reaching the roots and saturate the plant, killing it. In addition, too little water, hot and dry climate, drought and water shortage can also cause serious damage to plant growth and can easily lead to plant death.

Gardening can be an enjoyable pastime, but it also requires some digging, bending, and physical labor.

And the garden can be located in your backyard. Industrial farms are often thousands of miles away from where the food is consumed. This requires a lot of transportation, refrigeration and packaging to get food from farm to table.


[More to come ...]

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