The Tale of Two Orchards
In 2020 Ecdysis concluded their research on regenerative almond farming in California's Central Valley. The Central Valley has more than 3.5 million hectares of irrigated fields and is where 90% of the world's almonds are grown along with many other products. In pre-colonial times it was an area of amazing natural beauty and abundance with grass parries, and forests and wetlands dotting the landscape. Today it is largely a manmade desert full of trees grown on bare ground and being kept alive by irrigation and synthetic chemicals.
Ecdysis set about searching for some regenerative almond producers and in the northern reaches they managed to find a few. The image below is not photoshopped it is the 'fence line' between to farms, one regenerative, one conventional. The management practices are on these two farms were vastly different and the results of the research are astounding.
Typical Regenerative Management
- No pesticides
- Living ground cover all year round
- Compost and Compost teas for fertility and re-mineralization
- Pastured chickens being moved through the orchard
Typical Conventional Management
- 5 annual pesticide applications
- Bare soil
- Synthetic fertiliser
The looming train wreck of the Central Valley is water, they are going to run out of it. So let's start with the water. The regenerative orchards' infiltration rate was 6 times that of the conventional. The regenerative orchards had 30% more soil organic matter, 4% as opposed to 3%. That 1% means that the soil could hold more than an additional 150 000 litres of water per hectare than the conventional orchards. Together these differences make your rainfall and irrigation effective, they increase your transpiration rate to evaporation rate ratio and they significantly increase your resilience.
The second major difference between the farms was pest management. The regenerative orchards relied on soil health, plant health and a healthy population of predatory invertebrates to keep their pest in check. The conventional orchards relied on chemicals, spraying the orchards 5 time a year. This management difference made a big difference and indeed there were 6 times as many invertebrates on the regenerative farm. But when it came down to counting the pest species among those invertebrates the farms had roughly the same number of pests.
And finally to the money. The yields of the different farms were roughly the same so largely due to the significantly lower input costs the regenerative orchards averaged double the profit per acre.
Ecdysis Foundation - https://www.ecdysis.bio/
Research Paper - https://f1000research.com/articles/10-115/v1?