The organisms in the soil provide countless ecosystem services, including:
Soil stores and moderates the release of nutrients like phosphorus and calcium. Microorganisms decompose nutrients held in the soil and make them available for plant uptake.
Climate regulation and air purification
Soils contain 2 to 3 times more carbon than the atmosphere, which is comprised in live organisms, in dead organic material, as well as in inorganic (or mineral) material. When healthy, soils have a tremendous capacity to absorb additional carbon and therefore to regulate the climate. Microorganisms in soils also purify the air by breaking down toxic gases.
Flood and drought regulation
The complex web formed by fungus mycelia as well as the sticky liquids secreted by micro-organisms build soil structure, allowing to hold more water and enhance resiliency to droughts and floods.
Healthy soil filters and degrades various elements in water that pass through on their way to groundwater. The soil acts as a sieve and holds back particles that are too large to pass through. Microorganisms also break down organic and inorganic materials that would otherwise pollute our water supply.
Provision of food, fuel, fiber and medicine
Soil touches people’s lives in many ways, including serving as the source of food, energy, raw materials or medicine. Humanity has been using soil as a resource since time immemorial.
Disease suppression and soil detoxification
Organisms in a healthy living soil compete against pathogenic organisms and break down toxic chemicals.
ONE THIRD of our soils are degraded worldwide.
Degraded soils have less life and less structure. They lose their ability to provide ecosystem services, and therefore to absorb water and grow plants. They also lose their carbon content, which is emitted into the atmosphere as CO2, worsening climate change.
Degenerative Land Management
Deforestation, tillage and chemical inputs in soils inhibit the healthy functioning of soil microorganisms and lead to soil degradation.
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Regenerative Land Management
Regenerative land management is a set of principles and practices which reverse current trends of degradation in soil, water and air quality by enhancing the soil ecosystem and restoring its biology.
Regenerative land management aims to drawdown atmospheric carbon into soil and the aboveground biomass, helping to reverse climate change.
At the same time, it increases climate resilience in the face of drought, floods, and extreme weather events. Rebuilding soil organic matter reduces dependence on chemicals and pesticides, results in more nutrient dense food, and generates greater economic viability for farmers.
Regenerative land management is also about improving animal welfare, providing fairness for farmers, ranchers, and workers, and growing resilient regional ecosystems and communities.
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Regeneration Canada focuses on the following principles to promote regeneration in our agroecosystems:
Minimize soil disturbance
Keep the soil covered
Maintain living roots year round
Integrate animals and ensure their well-being
Understand the context
Reciprocity within both natural and human ecosystems
Safeguarding water cycles
Preserve and restore natural ecosystems
Plowing and turning over soil disrupts critical functions of soil microbial and fauna communities, which play a significant role in making soils healthy, living ecosystems. Regenerative land management encourages practices like no-till, low-till, and implementing perennial plants to disrupt the soil as little as possible. Reducing tillage can minimize soil erosion, decrease the demand for chemical inputs, and foster more resilient agricultural systems.
Keeping the soil covered allows for favourable conditions for microorganisms to thrive. Covering soil also helps regulate soil temperature and protects against wind and water erosion. Cover crops are common soil covers, where non-commercial crops are planted to anchor valuable topsoil, fix nitrogen, build soil organic matter, and retain soil water.
Systems with greater diversity of soil organisms, plants and animals are more resilient. They tend to have superior soil fertility and respond better to stresses such as diseases, climatic extremes, human impacts and degradation. We encourage practices like crop rotation, integration of pollinator buffers, elimination of chemical controls like pesticides, and mixing crops and livestock.
Perennials, trees, shrubs and other plants that grow back year after year, have more developed root systems than annual plants. This enables them to sequester more carbon, store more water, and sustain complex soil microbial communities throughout the seasons. Agroforestry involves integrating fruit and nut trees or trees for timber into agricultural systems and includes practices like windbreaks, alley cropping, and silvopasture.
Regenerative agriculture values holistic livestock management that benefits plant, soil, and animal health. Moving animals in ways that mimic nature helps to stimulate plant growth and fertilize the soil. Proper grazing management allows pastures to recover between grazing events, improves pasture quality, and can result in longer grazing seasons. In regenerative agriculture, animal welfare extends beyond the basics of low-stress handling and general care, but rather involves keeping livestock on the land whenever possible, requires careful timing, adapted infrastructure and the selection of breeds that will fit the environment. This symbiotic relationship between the land and animals produces happier and healthier animals, and more nutrient dense food.
As humans, our actions are influenced by many factors, including our environment, community, and financial circumstances. In regenerative landscape management, understanding context begs questions like: Does the crop choice match the growing climate? Who is involved in the farming operation? Where are farming practices learned? Is the farm profitable in the short and long term? Being aware of the context in which an agro-landscape is managed can help us recognize obstacles or opportunities for improvement.
Making sure whatever we take is given back. Providing plants with macro and micronutrients using organic inputs restores the soil’s biological nutrient cycling abilities. Green manures, compost and animal manure are all great examples of organic materials that enhance the biological functions of soils. Also, natural materials should be used instead of synthetics whenever possible.
As 40% of the world faces water scarcity, good water management is a key part of regenerative agriculture. Effective irrigation, water collection infrastructure, and proper farm design are important for water conservation.
Regenerative practices aim to preserve or reclaim habitats like peat bogs, wetlands, prairies and forests. These ecosystems play important roles in the maintenance of the water cycle, the purification of groundwater, sequestering carbon dioxide, cooling the air and protecting the diverse populations of plants and wildlife that inhabit them.