Regenerative agriculture takes a less industrial approach to growing food than most forms of modern farming. It focuses on regenerating healthy soil that can nurture better crops and be more resilient in the face of climate change.
While many people equate regenerative agriculture with sustainable and organic growing practices, it tends to go above and beyond growing without chemicals or large amounts of energy. Still, regenerative agriculture operations require some equipment. Some farms are only a few acres, while others may be thousands. Here are five essential equipment items for farmers in regenerative agriculture.
1. Smart Irrigation
Regenerative agriculture is about supporting soil with higher nutrient levels, water retention abilities, and overall resilience against drought and other natural events. Farmers growing vegetable and fruit crops may require ground irrigation, also known as drip tape, to effectively water their plants. But irrigation practices can be wasteful, and sometimes farmers end up ineffectively using water resources. By incorporating new technology involving timers and sensors, farmers can be more efficient in their energy usage. Smart irrigation is an excellent tool to ensure irrigated crops are getting the right amount of moisture without wasting resources.
2. Manure Spreader
Regenerative agriculture operations often have different income streams and markets. While industrial agriculture often focuses on producing only one crop, many regenerative farmers understand a healthy ecosystem consists of various processes, and it is more effective to cultivate different crops in one area. Instead of a field of soybeans, regenerative farms may raise livestock in one field, vegetables in another, and have fruit trees in a third. Manure is an incredibly nutrient-dense and efficient way to restore minerals to the soil before or after planting annual crops. If the farm uses rotational grazing, they most likely have a manure spreader attachment to distribute manure elsewhere on the farm.
3. No-Till Drill
Tilling is the process of digging up and turning the soil to plant a new crop. Most industrial agriculture uses tilling to sow annual crops, and while it makes things easy, it is terrible for the soil. Tilling disturbs the health of the soil’s microbiome, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and removes stored carbon from the soil. Using a no-till drill, regenerative farmers can plant traditional crops like grains and cover crops without tilling the soil first.
4. Post-Hole Digger
There are several types of regenerative agriculture, and agroforestry is one of the most popular. Agroforestry is the process of integrating tree crops with other farming operations, using nut and fruit trees to restore previously degraded soil. Many regenerative farms plant fruit and nut orchards and run livestock in between, so the trees benefit from the nutrient exchange, and the livestock clear out any potential pests on the ground. However, planting young seedlings can be very time-consuming. Investing in a post-hole digger is a worthwhile investment for a regenerative farmer, streamlining the planting process.
Compost is vital to healthy soil, especially when growing annual crops. Most regenerative farmers rely on the compost they generate, though more extensive operations may buy in large amounts when necessary. One innovative technology transforming regenerative agriculture is the availability of compost bioreactors, which allow farmers to convert their waste into nutrients more effectively. Bioreactors are especially helpful on farms with livestock operations, ensuring nothing goes to waste.
Regenerative agriculture is all about the earth, and keeping the soil healthy involves some special tools and equipment. Unlike more industrialized agricultural operations, many regenerative farms operate without a traditional tractor or other expensive equipment. However, a few tools are vital for regenerative farmers. Smart irrigation, a manure spreader, no-till drill, post-hole digger, and bioreactor are just a few pieces of equipment necessary for regenerative agriculture.
That’s all fine, but how does a farmer control weeds on a large farm.
Tillage in industrial agriculture was replaced by no-till seeding about 30 years ago. The use of glyphosate to control weeds at seeding time allowed this to happen. The use of a no-till drill without glyphosate will result in a failed crop over run by weeds in 9 out of 10 cases. Turning weedy crops into hay would control weed seed set and feed your livestock which would then provide manure for composting.The weed free area could be left and harvested to produce seed for following crops or left unharvested for grazing by young growing livestock.