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Regenerative agriculture: the solution for agricultural contamination?

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By Estefania Ziliani

· 5 min read

The solution for agricultural contamination?

In simple language, regenerative agriculture is a form of agriculture that focuses on the health of the soil. The easiest way to understand is to first imagine what you think of as a "typical farm": probably hundreds of acres of a single crop, like corn or cotton. You can think of this as normal, conventional, even "correct," except it's not.

A regenerative farm is the complete opposite of a conventional one, so instead of a monocrop field, try to imagine several different crops, many strategically planted to help each other grow and flourish.

For example, on a cotton farm, there may be rows of peas planted as "cover crops" to shade the soil so it stays cool, absorbs more water, and therefore develops more microbiomes.

These farms also implement crop "pollinator strips" that attract bees and butterflies to the area, or use "trap crops" to divert pests from their crops instead of chemical pesticides.

"It's an imitation of what nature already does. You never see a single crop in nature, you see a great diversity. That's a good reason."

Where do we come from and where are we going?

Currently including the use of heavy machinery, fertilizers and pesticides to maximize food production, is contributing to soil degradation and loss.

According to the organization Regeneration International, within the next 50 years, it is highly likely that at this rate there will not be enough soil left to feed the world.

Current mistakes

The intensive agriculture stirs up naturally stored CO2 in the soil and releases it into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Agriculture accounts for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations (UN).

While damaged soil and eroded land can make environments more vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as flooding, which increase in frequency and intensity as the Earth warms.

The solutions

Regenerative methods include minimizing the tilling of the land, which keeps CO2 in the soil, improves its water uptake, and leaves vital fungal communities in the soil intact.

Crop rotation to vary the types of crops planted enhances biodiversity, while the use of animal manure and compost helps return nutrients to the soil.

Continued grazing of animals on the same plot of land can also degrade the soil, which is why regenerative agriculture methods include moving grazing animals to different pastures.


Bold advances have been made through regenerative agriculture, which could have positive effects on the planet if it continues to be used frequently over time. Project Drawdown states that "regenerative agriculture improves and maintains soil health by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity, just the opposite of conventional agriculture," and estimates that annual regenerative cultivation could reduce or sequester between 14.5 and 22 gigatons of CO2 by 2050.

The most important research affirms that "regenerative agriculture has the potential to reverse climate change" (Kastner, 2016).

Also that "we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we call 'regenerative organic agriculture'" (Rodale Institute, 2014).

You can help us achieve net zero

We constantly hear about reducing our carbon emissions or about new technologies that capture carbon, but if the earth could return to its natural and abundant state, it could solve the problem of global warming on its own.

The soil has lost 139 billion tons of CO2e due to tillage, overgrazing and the turmoil to develop urban and suburban sprawl.

Of the available land mass that is not collected, we have the capacity to absorb all the carbon in our atmosphere, which is 109 billion tons.

Reflection: "So, we actually owe more carbon to the soil than we need to sequester."

The agricultural challenge

Agriculture is linked to many global challenges, from famine to deforestation, and has the potential to become the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world after the energy sector.

But it can be reversed.

If these developments stop being the "hope" and become the "solution" with the potential to transform the system positively, being able to achieve a net zero nature of polluting emissions.

Smart measures

These regenerative agriculture methods are designed to put farmers at the center of change; being a logical, simple and intelligent transition that we have as a SOLUTION at our fingertips, where crop yields can be improved, but at the same time convert cropland and pastures into carbon sinks.

In this way, the loss of forests can be reversed, as well as optimizing the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Global and local supply chains need to be rethought to make them more sustainable. Contributing to the reduction of waste, in its logistics transit.

The topic of the moment

In a recent World Economic Forum paper "Transforming Food Systems with Farmers" on farmer-focused climate strategies, it was found that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions could be immediately reduced by 6% per year.

With just a fifth of EU farmers receiving support to transition to net zero emissions, boosting soil health and revenues between €2-9 billion.


Regenerative Agriculture synthesizes the optimization of the processes that occur intuitively in nature and collects them in order to not only restore and heal the soil, but also seeks to go further, improving it using the resources that exist in it. They complement each other. It is a way to be naturally effective and efficient.


What is remarkable about regenerative agriculture and what differentiates it from mere sustainability is that it seeks to go one step further. It does not settle for a mere restitution of the damage caused to the environment, it is not a simple repair. This method seeks an improvement, to make a contribution, to overcome what was originally found, with a view to a collective and common benefit that, in addition, it seems, can bring greater productivity and economic benefits. Undoubtedly, it is a change of paradigm and methodology that will require investment and, what is more difficult, a change of mentality in the producers, but that is within reach.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Estefania E. Ziliani is the Lawyer Specialist in Administrative Contracts at the Ministry of Economy of Argentina.

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