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The fragile promises of regenerative farming

Published on
May 5, 2021

“Climate activists are talking much about it. Large companies reach deep into their pockets for it. Nestlé wants to invest billions in regenerative agriculture in the next few years, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the company. Alpro bets on it as well. Regenerative agriculture strives to increase carbon sequestration in the soil.

According to experts in the Netflix-documentary ‘Kiss the Ground’, this is the way to stabilize the climate rapidly. An often cited report of the Rodale institute claims that with regenerative agriculture we could compensate more than all of the human induced greenhouse gas emissions.

In an analysis in the scientific magazine ‘Outlook on Agriculture’ scientists of Wageningen University show how the concept of regenerative agriculture has emerged more frequently in the past five years in the media and scientific literature. There is no clear definition of what regenerative agriculture exactly entails, such as for instance is the case with organic agriculture. The focus on a healthy soil and the increase of soil organic carbon in the soil play at least a central role.

Agricultural experts agree that different cultivation practices can be useful because of various reasons. They can prevent soil erosion, can reduce water contamination and problems with pests, and they could stimulate a better water retention of the soil. But does it make soil carbon sequestration in agricultural soils an effective instrument against climate change? Scientists are sceptical about this, because of multiple reasons.”

This is written in an article by Eos Wetenschap, raising questions about the effectiveness of (regenerative) agriculture for sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change. In the article, Renske Hijbeek, assistant professor at our chair group, brings in multiple arguments questioning the effectiveness of carbon sequestration in agricultural soil to mitigate climate change. The full article can be read here.