Thursday, December 7, 2023

FROM THE RIDGE: Our farms are already regenerative

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There is a bit of wheel reinvention going on. No, that’s not quite the metaphor that I’m looking for. How about teaching granny to suck eggs? Something like that. Regenerative agriculture is all the rage, the answer to all our ills. Really?
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Steve Wyn-Harris | February 09, 2021 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

I see Beef + Lamb is about to do a global study into regenerative agriculture. That sounds expensive. Hey, that’s my levies you are squandering.

Yes, B+LNZ, the organisation that is usually the bastion of sensibleness.

The purpose of the study is to understand its similarities and differences to New Zealand farming practices.

Well, I could save them a lot of cost and world travel if they came here and I could show them that though I’m a conventional farmer most of the goals and methods of regenerative agriculture are done on this farm and most other sheep and beef farms around the country. But they know that, for goodness sake.

Regenerative agriculture is very similar to what I do with my clover-based, rotational, in-situ grazing as promoted by generations of farm consultants. And, yes, there are differences, primarily that I use conventional fertiliser rather than the impracticable option of making compost or gathering seaweed for my 320 hectares. I do want to remain economically sustainable while improving my environment.

Or they could go to Doug Edmeades’ Agknowledge website and read issue 42 of his Fertiliser Review, which, point by point, goes through regenerative agriculture’s claims and either refutes them or shows that’s exactly what we do already.

If they wanted to spend a little bit they could take Doug out for lunch, ply him with booze and get it from the horse’s mouth.

Doug’s summary goes like this. 

“Of the many goals that regenerative agriculture espouses some are unscientific, some are not based on sound science (mitigating climate change). Some are implausible and likely to be very costly (replacing chemical fertilisers with compost and manures), some are based on a false premise (chemical fertilisers are bad for soil health) or can be achieved more cheaply by other means (ie, improving soil health using chemical fertilisers).”

We are foolish if here in the 21st century we start going down paths unbacked by science.

B+LNZ interviewed me recently for a study on the future of hill-country farming. Towards the end were several leading questions on regenerative agriculture – questions designed to get a response in support of regenerative agriculture.

So, I wonder what’s going on with this organisation.

I see Melissa Clark-Reynolds, a great independent thinker, is on the board. But she is also obsessed with regenerative agriculture. I’m not sure her beekeeping background gives her the understanding of how the bulk of us have been improving soils and building soil carbon using conventional agricultural methods but I could be wrong.

The Primary Sector Council also appears to have fallen in love with the concept of regenerative agriculture.

The promoters of this concept and other even more snake oil products and ideas prey on the vulnerable, idealistic and foolish. 

It’s no problem if they can afford a drop in production and profitability. It is, after all, free choice.

I’ve just had a look at the Facebook timeline of a dairy farming family who went to a regenerative agriculture seminar three years ago and jumped in boots and all. They wrote about gathering seaweed, building worm farms and spreading fungi spores.

The herd then got mastitis and they tried to treat the cows with holistic methods rather than antibiotics and the page ends sadly with the news they were forced to send the cows to the works and sell their farm.

Given my premise that what we do is what those overseas call regenerative agriculture, maybe we should just embrace the term and proudly proclaim that we all are practising it.

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