Viewpoint: ‘Regenerative agriculture’ could reverse soil degradation and save our farmland along the way

GrowingaRevolution
Image Credit: W.W. Norton

New technologies and genetically modified crops are usually invoked as the key to feeding the world’s growing population. But a widely overlooked opportunity lies in reversing the soil degradation that has already taken something like a third of global farmland out of production. Simple changes in conventional farming practices offer opportunities to [return] health to the soil that grows our food.

And while mechanization, agrochemicals, and the Green Revolution transformed agriculture and boosted crop yields in the 20th century…The combination of highly disruptive mechanized tillage and heavy fertilizer use took a toll on soil organic matter and beneficial soil life…So far, America’s farms have lost about half their soil organic matter since colonial days.

Rebuilding fertility on the world’s degraded farmland is not only possible; we could do it remarkably fast—and profitably—with something called “regenerative agriculture.” I learned about this as I embarked on a six-month journey to visit small subsistence and large commodity farms while researching my book Growing a Revolution.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Former US journalist Carey Gillam should stay out of Europe's glyphosate debate

The secret to success? Giving up on plowing so as to minimize disturbance of the soil; planting cover crops to both protect the ground from erosion and build up soil organic matter; and adopting complex crop rotation pattern to thwart pests and pathogens.

Editor’s note: David R. Montgomery is a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. This article discusses his new book: Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life.

Read full, original article: To Feed the World Sustainably, Repair the Soil

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend