The 5 Soil Health Principles of Regen Ag

1. Limited Disturbance

  • Mechanical, Chemical and Biological
    • Mechanical - tillage destroys soil structure, kills microbes and releases CO2, especially mycorrhizal fungi (tilled soil erodes at 20 times the speed of no-till soil)
    • Chemicals - fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides all kill soil biology
    • Biological - monocultures and overgrazing decrease soil diversity and function

2. Armour

  • Always keep your soils covered from the sun, wind and rain
    • Crop residue - don't remove, don't burn, don't let livestock eat it all
    • Cover Crops - keep your soil covered with living plants (and they feed your soil biology)
    • Trampling - get uneaten material close to the earth so it doesn't block the sun for emerging growth and doesn't oxidise (soil biology can get to it and it decomposes instead)

3. Diversity

  • Strive for diversity in both plant and animal species - nature doesn't do monocultures
  • The greater the above ground biodiversity the greater the below ground diversity
  • Ecosystem resilience comes from diversity

4. Living Roots

  • Maintain a living root system in the soil for as many days of the year as you can
    • Without photosynthesis there are no root exudates to feed the soil biology, this is their primary food source
    • Without photosynthesis there is no transpiration

5. Integrate animals

  • Natural ecosystems does not function without animals
  • Grazing (pastures or cover crops) stimulates plants to grow putting more carbon in the soil, feeding the soil biology and the urine, dung and saliva stimulate that biology, taking productivity to a new level

Impact of Diversity and Livestock

The below graph show's Gabe Brown's soil carbon data and look what happened when the cover crops changed to multi-species and livestock were introduced.  Synthetic nitrogen application was stopped in 2004 and 15 years later is still not needed. 

What it also shows is that his 15+ years of single species cover cropping made little difference to his carbon.

Image credit: Dave Johnson