Regenerative Ag's 5 principles for soil health

1. Limited Disturbance

  • Mechanical and Chemical 
    • Tillage destroys soil structure, releases CO2 and kills microbes, specifically mycorrhizal fungi (tilled soil erodes at 20 times the speed of no-till soil)
    • Chemicals - fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides kill soil biology

2. Armour

  • Always keep your soils covered from the sun, wind and rain
    • Crop residue - don't remove, don't burn
    • Cover Crops - 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 (decomposes instead)

3. Diversity

  • Strive for diversity in both plant and animal species - nature doesn't do monocultures

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 soil biology
    • Without photosynthesis there is no transpiration

5. Integrate animals

  • Nature does not function without animals
  • Grazing (pastures or cover crops) stimulates plant to put 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

Look at this graph on soil carbon levels 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. Image credit: Dave Johnson