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Almacenar carbono y reducir el metano, objetivos para una agricultura más sostenible

La cumbre COP26 de Glasgow trata hoy la búsqueda de soluciones financieras para la puesta en marcha de medidas de mitigación y adaptación ante el cambio climático. Unos de los primeros temas que han salido a la palestra han sido la agricultura y la ganadería, causa de un buen número de emisiones, pero también posible solución.

La agricultura y la ganadería generan un 40% del metano vinculado a la actividad humana. El resto procede principalmente del sector gasístico. Esto se debe sobre todo al proceso de digestión de los rumiantes, que liberan metano al eructar, y no como se suele atribuir a sus flatulencias.

Es cierto que los bovinos que pastan ayudan renovando los prados que absorben CO2, pero la agricultura es responsable del 12% de las emisiones de efecto invernadero en el mundo, especialmente el metano, el segundo gas perjudicial después del dióxido de carbono.

Son varias las iniciativas puestas en marcha a lo largo y ancho del globo para reducir sus efectos. Por ejemplo, Cargill y Zelp desarrollan un mecanismo, colocado en el hocico de las vacas, que filtra el metano para transformarlo en CO2, cuyo efecto de calentamiento de cada molécula es mucho menor que el de una molécula de metano.

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Sin arados, ni químicos, un granjero sudafricano revoluciona sus métodos

Es primavera en Sudáfrica, pero los arados de Danie Bester se oxidan en un rincón de su granja. A su alrededor, kilómetros de campos de sus vecinos con la tierra recién removida. “Yo sigo jugando al golf”, bromea.

Parece la fábula de Esopo, en la que la cigarra holgazanea todo el verano mientras las hormigas hacen acopio de comida para el invierno. Pero en realidad, este hombre de 37 años ha decidido revolucionar sus métodos de cultivo, con técnicas mejores para el suelo y para el clima.

“Mis semilleros ya están creciendo y mi control de la maleza está en marcha”, dice. “Así que no tengo que hacer esa gran, gran preparación como los otros están haciendo”, añade.

Es agricultura regenerativa, un estilo de nombre sofisticado, pero basado en una idea bien simple.

En vez de usar pesticidas, sistemas de irrigación y pesada maquinaria para el arado, Bester utiliza cultivos de cobertura durante todo el año para mantener la humedad y los nutrientes del suelo. Eso controla la maleza.

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How the Loss of Soil Is Sacrificing America’s Natural Heritage

Geologically speaking, I grew up in a small farm town on the Des Moines lobe, a huge tongue-shaped remnant of glacial activity that reaches south across central Iowa. All around us were mollisols with a deep A-horizon — a type of rich black topsoil visible in farm fields for miles in every direction. In school we were taught only one thing about that soil: to be proud of it. It was a given, a blessing, a moral fact. In a sense, it seemed to have no history. Yet when I was very young, I surely must have met old people — relatives from northwest Iowa — whose elders had helped break the prairie in the late 19th century, using heavy sod-plows and the great teams of animals needed to pull those plows through tenacious tallgrass. The way I was taught, it felt, somehow, as though the prairie’s providential job had been to keep the soil ready for a time when we would need it. By the time I was in school it was hard to find living prairie anywhere in Iowa. It had nearly all been turned.

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Saving Biodiversity Starts Here at Home with Changing Agriculture

Healthy soil means healthy rivers, food and people. But restoring health and balance to the ecosystems we’re part of will require changes in the way we farm.

Human impacts on the planet since the Industrial Revolution show that things are badly out of whack.

In 2009, scientists developed a framework for measuring a ‘’safe operating space’ for humanity within environmental boundaries. They suggested that if we pass those boundaries, we risk catastrophic ‘’non-linear, abrupt environmental change’’.

But even while the framework was being developed, two boundaries were already crossed – safe nitrogen limits and biodiversity losses. Now, four boundaries have been crossed, including climate change and land use. Other limits include freshwater, ocean acidification and deforestation.

We might think these problems are happening somewhere else in the world, not here in ‘’clean green New Zealand’’. Deforestation, polluted rivers, the effects of climate change, are matters for other countries, not for us in ‘’Godzone’’.

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Ganadería regenerativa: otra forma de producir carne

En el Establecimiento “Santa Ángela”, ubicado en Colonia Ituzaingó (departamento Las Colonias), hasta hace poco tiempo se realizaba una explotación agropecuaria “tradicional”: un campo mixto en el que se arrendaban 80 hectáreas para agricultura y otras 100 hectáreas se destinaban a la ganadería, explotada de manera tradicional.
El que manejaba todo era don Leonides Tomatis, primera promoción de médico veterinario de lo que fue la Facultad de Agronomía y Veterinaria de Esperanza. Junto a su mujer, Clara Cueto, tuvieron 4 hijos: Silvina, docente y actualmente viviendo en Sunchales, Vanesa, biotecnóloga que vive en Adelaide (Australia), Fabiana, en Humboldt, e Iván en San Guillermo. Los dos últimos siguieron los pasos profesionales del padre.

“Todos consensuamos y apostamos a lo mismo. Entre hermanos, al tener un mismo objetivo, sabemos hacia dónde vamos. El primero que nos permitió llevar adelante este cambio de paradigma fue nuestro padre, de 78 años: pasar de la forma tradicional de producir, la que habíamos aprendido en la facultad, al concepto de manejo holístico y de ganadería regenerativa”, cuenta Iván, uno de los protagonistas de esta historia en la que la dimensión humana, y la familia son fundamentales.

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The Regenerative Revolution in Food

Low lying and layered with clay, the soils of Molescroft Farm in East Yorkshire have never been the easiest to cultivate. Driven by ever-dwindling productivity, the land was pushed to its limits for decades – more passes with machinery, more fertilisers, more pesticides. These intensive agricultural practices kept the farm afloat; but beneath the surface, the soil was dying.

“The land had been farmed very conventionally, so the ground was overworked and had lost its organic matter,” recalls managing director Tamara Hall, who joined the estate in 2003. “We had to change, for environmental reasons as well as profitability.”

And so, bit by bit, Molescroft was reworked with sustainability in mind. The farm’s main crops – wheat, peas, beans and barley – had their rotation widened, drainage was improved and fewer chemicals were sprayed. Cultivation was also dialled down, with far less ploughing and tilling to keep soil disturbance at a minimum.

For the health of the land and its long-term yield potential, Hall believes her interventions have been resoundingly positive. But in the short-term, these regenerative practices were expensive as yields fell, carrying the risk of financial shortfall. The solution, Hall realised, was resting beneath her feet: soil carbon.

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Qué es la ganadería regenerativa y cómo implementarla para secuestrar carbono

Desde el INTA estudian el real potencial de la ganadería para secuestrar carbono y los beneficios y ventajas de implementar la regeneración de suelos.

Agustín Barbera–especialista de la Chacra Experimental Integrada Barrow (Ministerio Desarrollo Agrario, provincia de Buenos Aires – INTA) hizo hincapié en la necesidad de entender que “la ganadería regenerativa es una alternativa muy interesante y trascendental en este contexto de cambio climático”. 

Y, en este sentido, dio un paso más allá al subrayar la idea de que se trata de un concepto superador a la sostenibilidad porque, según él, “ya no es suficiente con sostener, sino que hay que incrementar los indicadores. No alcanza con sustentar, hay que regenerar”.

Entre las pautas a tener en cuenta para lograr la regeneración, Barbera destacó el rol vital que cumple un manejo eficiente del pastoreo. “Antes de la intervención directa del ser humano, los herbívoros convivían con sus depredadores, se movían en manada y manejando los tiempos del clima y del ciclo de crecimiento de las pasturas naturales”.

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Regenerative Food and Farming: Survival and Revival

“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.” Dr. Vandana Shiva, Co-Founder Regeneration International

Regenerative agriculture and holistic livestock management represent the next, crucial stage of organic food and farming, not only avoiding toxic pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge, GMO seeds, and excessive greenhouse gas emissions, but regenerating soil fertility, water retention, carbon sequestration, and rural livelihoods as well.

Regeneration has now become the hottest topic in the natural and organic food sector. At the same time, climate activists regularly discuss the role of organic and regenerative practices in reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering excess atmospheric carbon dioxide in soils and agricultural landscapes.

Inside Regeneration International, which now includes 400 affiliates in more than 60 countries, our primary focus is  moving beyond the basics of Regeneration to identifying regenerative and organic “best practices” around the globe and figuring out how to utilize farmer innovation, marketplace demand, policy reform, and public and private investing to qualitatively spread and scale these best practices up so that organic and regenerative becomes the norm, rather than just the alternative, for the planet’s now degenerative multitrillion-dollar food, farming and land use system.

Either we move beyond merely treating the symptoms of our planetary degeneration and build instead a new system based upon regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with renewable energy practices and global cooperation instead of superpower competition and belligerence, or we will soon pass the point of no return.

In 2010 Olaf Christen stated, “Regenerative agriculture is an approach in agriculture that rejects pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and is intended to improve the regeneration of the topsoil, biodiversity and the water cycle.”

This corresponds almost exactly with the stated principles of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) or Organics International.

Since 2014, the Rodale Institute, IFOAM, Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Mercola, Patagonia, the Real Organic Project, the Biodynamic Movement, the Organic Consumers Association, Regeneration International, Navdanya and others have also been discussing and implementing organic standards, practices and certification, which incorporate regenerative principles.

Changing the Conversation: Regenerative Food and Farming

In September 2014 a group of food, natural health and climate activists, including Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, Will Allen, Steve Rye, Alexis Baden-Meyer and staff from Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Mercola, Organic Consumers Association and the Rodale Institute, organized a press conference at the massive climate march in New York City to announce the formation of Regeneration International and to set for ourselves a simple, but what seemed like then ambitious, goal.

We all pledged to change the conversation on the climate crisis in the U.S. and around the world — then narrowly focused on renewable energy and energy conservation — so as to incorporate regenerative and organic food, farming and land use as a major solution to global warming, given its proven ability to drawdown and sequester massive amounts of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, trees, and plants.

Now, seven years later, it appears that our growing Regeneration Movement has achieved this goal. Regeneration is now the hottest topic in the natural and organic food and farming sector, while climate activists including the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion regularly talk about the role of organic and regenerative practices in reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

More and more people now understand that we can achieve, through enhanced photosynthesis and drawdown, “Net Zero” emissions by 2030, a figure will be necessary if we are to avoid runaway global warming and climate catastrophe.

Identifying Regenerative and Organic ‘Best Practices’

Inside Regeneration International, which now includes 400 affiliates in more than 60 countries, our conversation has shifted from promoting a basic discussion about organic and regenerative food, farming, and land-use to identifying regenerative and organic “best practices” around the globe.

Our discussions and strategizing are not just an academic exercise. As most of us now realize, our very survival as a civilization and a species is threatened by a systemic crisis that has degraded climate stability, our food and our environment, along with every major aspect of modern life.

This mega-crisis cannot be resolved by piecemeal reforms or minor adjustments such as slightly cutting our current levels of fossil fuel use, reducing global deforestation, soil degradation and military spending.

Either we move beyond merely treating the symptoms of our planetary degeneration and build instead a new system based upon regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with renewable energy practices and global cooperation instead of belligerence, or we will soon (likely within 25 years) pass the point of no return.

A big challenge is how do we describe the crisis of global warming and severe climate change in such a way that everyday people understand the problem and grasp the solution that we’re proposing, i.e., renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land use?

Enhanced Photosynthesis Is All-Important

The bottom line is that humans have put too much CO2 and other greenhouse gases (especially methane and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere (from burning fossil fuels and destructive land use), trapping the sun’s heat from radiating back into space and heating up the planet.

And, unfortunately, because of the destructive food, farming and forestry practices that have degraded a major portion of the Earth’s landscape, we’re not drawing down enough of these CO2 emissions through plant photosynthesis, soil carbon sequestration, and perennial above ground carbon storage in biomass (forest, grass, and plants) to cool things off.

In a word, there’s too much CO2 and greenhouse gas pollution blanketing the sky (and saturating the oceans) and not enough life-giving carbon in the ground and in our living plants, trees, pastures, and rangelands.

Increasing plant and forest photosynthesis (accomplished via enhanced soil fertility and biological life, as well as an adequate amount of water and minerals) is the only practical way that we can draw down a significant amount of the excess CO2 and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that are heating up the Earth and disrupting our climate.

Through photosynthesis, plants and trees utilize solar energy to break down CO2 from the atmosphere, release oxygen, and transform the remaining carbon into plant biomass and liquid carbon.

Photosynthesis basically enables plants to grow above ground and produce biomass, but also stimulates growth below ground as plants transfer a portion of the liquid carbon they produce through photosynthesis into their root systems to feed the soil microorganisms that in turn feed the plant.

From the standpoint of drawing down enough CO2 and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequestering them in our soils and biota to reverse global warming, qualitatively enhanced photosynthesis is all-important.

Agave Power: Greening the Desert

As RI, OCA, and our Mexico affiliate Via Organica’s contribution to the global expansion of regenerative and organic food and farming practices, we have spent the last several years working with Mexican farmers and ranchers, the Hudson Carbon Project, consumer organizations, elected political officials (mainly at the local and state level), and socially and environmentally-concerned “impact investors.”

Our goal is to develop a native agave agroforestry and livestock management system that we believe can be a game-changer for much of the 40% of the world’s pasturelands and rangelands that are arid and semi-arid, areas where it is now nearly impossible to grow food crops without irrigation, and where the land is too overgrazed and degraded for proper livestock grazing.

We call this Mexico-based agave and agroforestry/livestock management system Agave Power: Greening the Desert, and are happy to report that its ideas and practices are now starting to spread from the high desert plateau of Guanajuato across much of arid and semi-arid Mexico.

We now are receiving inquiries and requests for information about this agave-based, polyculture/perennial system from desert and semi-desert areas all over the world, including Central America, the Southwestern U.S., Argentina, Chile, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Australia, Lebanon, and Oman.

You can learn more about this Agave Power system on the websites of Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association.

Primary Drivers of Regeneration and Degeneration

What I and others have learned “on the ground” trying to expand and scale-up regenerative and organic best practices is that there are four basic drivers of regenerative (or conversely degenerative) food, farming and land use.

The first driver is consumer awareness and market demand. Without an army of conscious consumers and widespread market demand, regenerative practices are unlikely to reach critical mass. The second driver is farmer, rancher and land stewardship innovation, including the development of value-added products and ecosystem restoration services.

The third driver is policy change, starting at the local and regional level. And last, but not least is regenerative finance — large-scale investing on the part of the public and private sector, what is now commonly known as “impact investing.”

In order to qualitatively expand organic and regenerative best practices and achieve critical mass sufficient to transform our currently degenerative systems, we need all four of these drivers to be activated and working in synergy.

Let’s look now at four contemporary drivers of degeneration, degenerative food, farming and land use, in order to understand what the forces or drivers are that are holding us back from moving forward to regeneration.

 

1-Degenerated grassroots consciousness and morale — When literally billions of people, a critical mass of the 99%, are hungry, malnourished, and/or stuffed and supersized with ultraprocessed foods and empty calories, revolution is all but impossible. When billions are scared and divided, struggling to survive with justice and dignity… when the majority of the global body politic are threatened and assaulted by a toxic environment and food system; when hundreds of millions are overwhelmed by economic stress due to low wages and the high cost of living; when hundreds of millions are weakened by chronic health problems, or battered by floods, droughts and weather extremes, regenerative change — Big Change — will not come easily.

Neither will it happen if we continue to allow endless wars and land grabs for water, land and strategic resources to spiral out of control, or fail to organize and resist on a mass scale while indentured politicians, corporations, Big Tech, and the mass media manipulate crises such as COVID-19 to stamp out freedom of expression and participatory democracy in order to force a “Business-as-Usual” or “Great Reset” paradigm down our throats.

Disempowered, exploited people, overwhelmed by the challenges of everyday survival, usually don’t have the luxury of connecting the dots between the issues that are pressing down on them and focusing on the Big Picture.

It’s the job of regenerators to connect the dots between the climate crisis, COVID-19, elite control and people’s everyday concerns including food, natural health, jobs, and economic justice, to globalize awareness, political mobilization and, most of all, to globalize hope.

It’s the job of regenerators to make the connections between personal and public health and planetary health, to expose the truth about the origins, nature, prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and chronic disease, and to mobilize the public to reject a so-called Great Reset disguised as fundamental reform, but actually a Trojan Horse for a 21st Century Technocracy that is profoundly antidemocratic and authoritarian.

Regenerators have to be able to make the connections between different issues and concerns, identify and support best practitioners and policies and build synergy between social forces, effectively lobby governments (starting at the local level), businesses and investors for change, all the while educating and organizing grassroots alliances and campaigns across communities, constituencies and even national borders.

But of course this long-overdue Regeneration Revolution will not be easy, nor will it take place overnight. Our profoundly destructive, degenerative, climate-destabilizing food and farming system, primarily based upon industrial agriculture inputs and practices, is held together by a multibillion-dollar system of marketing and advertising that has misled or literally brainwashed a global army of consumers into believing that cheap, ultra-processed, artificially flavored, “fast food” is not only acceptable, but “normal” and “natural.”

After decades of consuming sugar, salt, carbohydrate-rich and “bad fat”-laden foods from industrial farms, animal factories and chemical manufacturing plants, many consumers have literally become addicted to the artificial flavors and aromas that make super-processed foods and “food-like substances” so popular.

2-Degenerate “conventional” farms, farming and livestock management  

Compounding the lack of nutritional education, choice, poverty, inertia and apathy of a large segment of consumers, other major factors driving our degenerative food and farming system include the routine and deeply institutionalized practices of industrial and chemical-intensive farming and land use (mono-cropping, heavy plowing, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs, factory farms, deforestation, wetlands destruction) today.

These soil-, climate-, health- and environmentally-destructive practices are especially prevalent on the world’s 50 million large farms, which, in part, are kept in place by global government subsidies totaling $500 billion a year.

Meanwhile, there are few or no subsidies for organic or regenerative farmers, especially small farmers (80% of the world’s farmers are small farmers), nor for farmers and ranchers who seek to make this transition.

Reinforcing these multibillion-dollar subsidies for bad farming practices are a global network of chemical- and agribusiness-controlled agricultural research and teaching institutions, focused on producing cheap food and beverages (no matter what the cost to the environment, climate and public health) and agro-export agricultural commodities (often pesticide-intensive GMO grains).

What we need instead are subsidies for organic and regenerative practices, research and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to produce healthy, organic and regenerative food for local, regional and domestic markets, rewarding farmers with a fair price for producing healthy food and being a steward, rather than a destroyer, of the environment.

3-Monopoly Control — Another driver of degeneration, holding back farmer adoption of regenerative practices and determining the type of food and crops that are produced, is the monopoly or near-monopoly control by giant agribusiness corporations over much of the food system, especially in industrialized countries, as well as the monopoly or near-monopoly control by giant retail chains such as Walmart and internet giants like Amazon.

The out-of-control “Foodopoly” that dominates our food system is designed to maximize short-term profits and exports for the large transnational corporations, preserve patents and monopoly control over seeds, and uphold international trade agreements (NAFTA, WTO) that favor corporate agribusiness and large farms over small farms; factory farms over traditional grazing and animal husbandry; and agro- exports instead of production for local and regional markets.

Food and farming is the largest industry in the world with consumers spending an estimated $7.5 trillion a year on food. In addition, the largely unacknowledged social, environmental and health costs (i.e., collateral damage) of the industrial food chain amounts to an additional $4.8 trillion a year.

4-Degenerate public policy and public and private investments  

Agriculture is the largest employer in the world with 570 million farmers and farm laborers supporting 3.5 billion people in rural households and communities. In addition to workers on the farm, food chain workers in processing, distribution and retail make up hundreds of millions of other jobs in the world, with over 20 million food chain workers in the U.S. alone (17.5% of the total workforce).

This makes public policy relating to food, farming and land use very important. Unfortunately, thousands of laws and regulations are passed every year, in every country and locality, that basically prop up conventional (i.e., industrial, factory farm, export-oriented, GMO) food and farming, while there is very little legislation passed or resources geared toward promoting organic and regenerative food and farming.

Trillions of dollars have been, and continue to be, invested in the so-called “conventional” food and farming sector, including trillions from the savings and pension funds of many conscious consumers, who would no doubt prefer their savings to be invested in a different manner, if they knew how to do this.

Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of public or private investment is currently going toward organic, grass fed, free-range and other healthy foods produced by small and medium-sized farms and ranches for local and regional consumption.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy climate, healthy societies — our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, are directly connected to the soil, biodiversity and the health and fertility of our food and farming systems. Regenerative organic farming and land use can move us back into balance, back to a stable climate and a life-supporting environment.

It’s time to move beyond degenerate ethics, farming, land use, energy policies, politics and economics. It’s time to move beyond “too little, too late” mitigation and sustainability strategies. It’s time to inspire and mobilize a mighty global army of Regenerators, before it’s too late.

 

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Farmers Eye Towards Regenerative Agriculture to Fight Dry Summer

VANDERHOOF—This dry summer is creating problems across the province with wildfires, but it’s also taking a toll on farmers. With the lack of rain, it’s tough for farmers to maintain their soil to produce healthy crops. On Thursday, farmers met together to discuss possible solutions.

It’s been a tough summer for rancher Larry Garrett of Garrett Ranches. One that closely resembles what he experienced a few years ago. He says that grasshoppers and the drought hurt his crop growth.

To fix this problem, Garrett has been practicing regenerative agriculture.

“The newest part of science is we need to add ruminates back to the ecosystem. A ruminate expels about 80% of what it eats as manure, so it’s a really key way to build soil health,” said Garrett.

A ruminate is a mammal–such as cattle–that can specially process nutrients from grass. They expel the nutrients through their manure and the nutrients return into the soil, which is a process called grazing.

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Pairing Agroforestry with Livestock: The Major Benefits

‘Ecology’ is the study of relationships between plants, animals, people and the environment, with a specific focus on how these elements work together. ‘Agroecology’, then, is the application of these ecological concepts to farming, specifically: using nature and natural relationships to boost your farm’s yields, productivity and more.

We have a lot of faith in agroecology, and there’s evidence to suggest that, by making agroecological practices more mainstream, we could make our food and farming systems more sustainable and healthy. It doesn’t have to be complicated to get involved in agroecological methods, either. In fact, agroforestry – the process of combining trees with crops or livestock – is something you can get started with straight away, according to farmer Nikki Yoxall. Nikki runs Howemill Farm and Grampian Graziers, and has been using agroforestry on her farm for over two years. We talked to her about what her experience of this nature-friendly farming practice has been like, the benefits to her cattle and more below…

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