Landcare Tasmania's Evie Drinnan is passionate about regenerative agriculture and attended the National Farming Matters Conference in late March, thanks to sponsorship from Young Farmers Connect. Evie was joined by Celia Leverton from Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania. Here's what they took away from the 3 day conference.
The following information was prepared by Evie Drinnan from Landcare Tasmania and Celia Leverton from Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania.
Image: Celia Leverton (left) from Regenerative Agriculture Network Tasmania and Evie Drinnan (right) from Landcare Tasmania
The Conference was a national gathering of regenerative agriculture and holistic management farmers. Farmers were brought together by their concern for the environment, climate change and food security and their passion and determination to heal their patch of land and their community.
Regenerative agriculture: ecological restoration in an agricultural context
Regenerative agriculture is more-or-less synonymous with ecological restoration, but in an agricultural context. it's about restoring and regenerating. Here are five key regenerative agriculture principles/priorities:
- Maximising biodiversity in all realms: soil biology, diverse pastures, diverse grazers and diverse native flora and fauna are encouraged.
- Keep the soil covered: soil needs armour so moisture isn't lost and soil temperature doesn’t fluctuate or become too extreme. Protected soil is more resilient in drought and extreme weather, both of which are already common in Australia and becoming more common due to climate change.
- Don’t disturb the soil: allowing soil biota to thrive so they can keep building new soil and sequestering carbon.
- Keep living roots in the soil at all times: plants develop relationships with soil biota so the biota give the plant whatever nutrients it needs in exchange for sugar. By leaving bare ground/no live plants, you are starving the biota that plants rely upon to survive, eventually resulting in them dying out. You will also eradicate biota if you apply fertilisers. This is because the plants receive free nutrients without having to exchange sugar, resulting in a dependency on the fertiliser. Living roots in the soil not only feed biota, but armour and shade the soil and sequester carbon from the air through photosynthesis.
- Herbivores are essential: in managing grasses, eating older leaf material and encouraging new leaf growth (increasing photosynthesis and therefore carbon sequestration), cycling nutrients/fertilising the soil through manure, and trampling organic matter into the ground for biota to feed on.
What is holistic management?
Holistic management is a type of regenerative agriculture which aims to mimic nature and see things in 'wholes' - taking into account multiple facets of farm management. Some features of holistic management agriculture include:
Herds of herbivores closely bunched together (in nature, by the threat of predators), roaming native grasslands, intensively grazing an area for a short period of time before moving on and leaving a long rest time for the land to recover.
- A high density of animals means that dry grass, organic matter and manure is pushed into the soil by their hooves, so soil organisms are more able to digest it. Compaction is not an issue because of the long rest time and the soil biota create tunnels and gaps in the soil.
Here is an informative video recommended by Evie which clearly explains the huge (and surprising) benefits that come from allowing longer grazing area recovery times.
- Seeing things in 'Wholes' - Taking into account economic, social and environmental impacts when making decisions, such as financial capital, family needs/wants, neighbour and other stakeholder needs, and environmental health.
Celia said that it was a real privilege to hear Allan Savoury, founder of Holistic Management, speak. He outlined the 3 critical environmental issues facing the world:
- Climate Change
Agriculture must be stable for countries to be stable.
Holistic management strategies must be made to address the real causes of climate change. As managers of much of the world's land, farmers need to be part of this.
Celia's conference highlights: networking opportunities, reconnecting with other regenerative farmers and sharing learnings and progress, advocating for and developing new opportunities for RANT and the wider Tasmanian regenerative agriculture community
Evie's conference highlights: meeting other people from all walks of life who are passionate about restoring their patch of land and feeling like a part of the regenerative agriculture community. Everyone there is really brave for being different and thinking outside the square. They’re also creative, caring, and focussed on a positive future. Watch Evie's video here.
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