The Farm Forum Event held in Saskatoon earlier this month drew hundreds of farmers and agrologists for three days of seminars. A topic of conversation among farmers was regenerative agriculture, with one audience member inquiring about this latest “buzzword.”
Regenerative ag is a series of practices that rely less on chemicals and more on natural processes. How practical some of the practices are is the question under discussion.
At The Western Producer, we write about regenerative ag because it is being pressed as a sustainable solution for farming, and we believe it’s important to let farmers know what’s being encouraged because consumers are also watching.
Note that General Mills wants to establish regenerative ag practices on one million acres of farmland in North America, and Cargill has established a Sustainable Canola program through which farmers are encouraged to meet the standards of European Biomass Biofuel Sustainability.
Some of regenerative ag’s key tenets are already being practised by many farmers, not the least of which is zero- or low-tillage and sound crop rotations.
Other practices, according to Montreal-based Regeneration Canada, include soil cover, organic fertility, perennial crops, water management, cold climate adaptations and social and economic justice (governing labour practices, the formation of unions and such).
Farmers will decide for themselves about that last one, but other practices would be difficult to apply on the Prairies. Cover crops, for example, might work in areas with plenty of moisture, but drier areas would have a harder go of it.
And spreading manure over 62 million acres of prairie farmland to reduce the amount of chemicals spread on soil is difficult to fathom.
Using greenhouses as a cold-climate adaptation tool (they release less carbon) would similarly be a big task on the Prairies.
And then there is the group’s advocacy of “opting out of GMOs and chemical inputs.”
The effect on Canadian farm production would be incalculable.
Farmers may or may not use more regenerative ag tools, and more importantly, they may find a way to educate consumers about the responsible and regenerative manner in which Canadian crops and livestock are already cultivated.