Talking Regen Ag with Dr. Kris Nichols: Part 2 - Defining Regenerative
In Part 2 of our video series with Dr. Kris Nichols, Kris explains how she defines regenerative agriculture: a systems approach to agriculture that is intensive, integrated, innovative, and dynamic.
“Each of those four words have definitions in and of themselves," she said, "but they are also, just like with the plants and the animals and the soil, very synergistic.”
Intensifying agriculture in a regenerative context doesn’t necessarily require that a producer does more, plant more crops, or add more livestock species onto the land. Regenerative agriculture involves paying attention to every part of the agro-ecosystem and “intensifying the way that every component within the system is working,” Kris explained. Producers utilize every square foot of land, allowing the ecosystem to do what it does best.
By integrating cattle onto cropland, producers might benefit from the symbiotic interactions that exist between large grazing animals and the prairies. Cattle gently stir up the soil with their hooves, acting as an alternative to tillage, and fertilize the land through their poop. Their feeding patterns stimulate plants to sequester more carbon underground, enriching the soil and feeding the soil microorganisms.
Integration in regenerative agriculture goes beyond this concept as well to include the integration of microorganisms, insects, pollinators, and wildlife.
Innovative tools and techniques come both from producers – “no-till is an innovation that producers created,” Kris mentioned – and from the land itself. Kris explained that evolution, and all of the biodiversity and complex relationships that it has led to, is a type of innovation. Regenerative agriculture taps into those beneficial interactions that have evolved over millennia in order to improve soil health and productivity.
“A dynamic approach is something where you have almost limitless options and opportunities,” Kris said. Rather than following standardized practices, a regenerative approach allows producers to respond dynamically to market, weather, and personal conditions as they arise.
“One of the things that is really unique and wonderful about the Regenerative Alberta Living Lab is that it is truly producer driven. And the questions and practices and ideas that the producers have are what’s driving what it is that we’re doing.”
Stay tuned for upcoming installments of our video series and learn from Kris about the six principles of regenerative agriculture: maximizing photosynthesis, biodiversity, reducing synthetic inputs, managing livestock, soil armour, and low or no tillage.