Regenerative agriculture - the soil is the base

Schreefel, Loekie; Schulte, Rogier; Boer, I.J.M. de; Zanten, H.H.E. van; Modernel Hristoff, P.D.


Can we develop an agricultural approach which encourages synergies between the different soil functions? The key challenge nowadays is to produce enough safe and nutritious food for a growing and wealthier population within the carrying capacity of the planet. An increasing body of literature concludes that regenerative farming might be a solution. But what is regenerative farming?Regenerative farming is one of several approaches towards a sustainable food system. Characterisation of the term is still challenging since a variety of actors (e.g. scientists, governmental agencies, sector organisations, industries and farmers) perceive this term differently and a clear definition is missing in the scientific literature. The aim of this study was, therefore, to define regenerative farming with respect to environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects. We, therefore, performed a systematic literature review. We found that the term regenerative farming was first proposed in the 70s as an option for farmers to contribute to a circular agriculture system. It centralizes soil quality and is marked by tendencies towards closed nutrient loops, greater biodiversity, more perennials instead of annuals, greater reliance on internal rather than external resources and builds on the integration of plant and livestock farming in mixed farming systems. Our review will culminate in the definition of a common set of criteria that leads to the creation of indicators for farmers, industry and policy makers to assess regenerative farming, which will represent a first step towards fostering the transition towards regenerative food systems.