Regenerative Agriculture

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    A genealogy of sustainable agriculture narratives: implications for the transformative potential of regenerative agriculture
    (Springer Nature, 2023-05-01) Bless, Anja; Davila, Federico; Plant, Roel
    The agri-food system is facing a range of social-ecological threats, many of which are caused and amplified by industrial agriculture. In response, numerous sustainable agriculture narratives have emerged, proposing solutions to the challenges facing the agri-food system. One such narrative that has recently risen to prominence is regenerative agriculture. However, the drivers for the rapid emergence of regenerative agriculture are not well understood. Furthermore, its transformative potential for supporting a more sustainable agri-food system is underexplored. Through a genealogical analysis of four prominent sustainable agriculture narratives; organic agriculture, conservation agriculture, sustainable intensification, and agroecology; we consider how regenerative agriculture’s growing momentum can be contextualised within existing narratives and explore the implications this might have for its transformative potential. This analysis reveals that the genealogies of these sustainable agriculture narratives have led to a number of contestations and complementarities which have coalesced to drive the emergence of regenerative agriculture. We also find that, in contrast to agroecology, regenerative agriculture shares with other Global North narratives a limited scope for offering transformative pathways for agricultural production. This is largely due to their inadequate consideration of power and equity issues in the agri-food system. We argue that regenerative agriculture therefore risks inhibiting deeper agri-food system transformations that address both social and ecological challenges and is not the unifying sustainable agriculture narrative it claims to be. Nonetheless, regenerative agriculture could contribute towards a broader plurality of sustainable agriculture narratives that collectively might enable a transformation to a more sustainable, diverse, and just agri-food system.
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    Regenerative agriculture and a more-than-human ethic of care: a relational approach to understanding transformation
    (Springer Nature, 2022-08-25) Seymour, Madison; Connelly, Sean
    A growing body of literature argues that achieving radical change in the agri-food system requires a radical renegotiation of our relationship with the environment alongside a change in our thinking and approach to transformational food politics. This paper argues that relational approaches such as a more-than-human ethic of care (MTH EoC) can offer a different and constructive perspective to analyse agri-food system transformation because it emphasises social structures and relationships as the basis of environmental change. A MTH EoC has not yet been applied to regenerative agriculture, yet other literature on regenerative agriculture suggests that care may be present in these spaces and calls for the need for social science analysis of the regenerative movement. This paper uses a MTH EoC lens to reveal a diverse array of ways in which power is and can be deployed for change in the regenerative agriculture movement in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Globally, regenerative agriculture tends to be analysed through positivist, scientific approaches that focus on biophysical markers of ecological improvement. Yet, a relational approach reveals how engagement in regenerative agriculture is creating significant shifts in mindset towards more holistic and relational understandings of biological and social ecosystems. A regenerative mindset framework is suggested as a method of understanding the connection between a regenerative form of thinking, being and doing for farmers. Interviews suggested that this shift in farmers’ socio-ecological relations is crucial to the transformational potential of regenerative agriculture. This paper argues that relational analyses such as the MTH EoC approach used to analyse regenerative agriculture in this research, refresh the way we analyse agri-food system change. They also are critical to guiding and supporting on-the-ground socio-ecological shifts that are necessary to see agricultural transformation.
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    Clean weeding showed positive effects on earthworm communities following six years of minimum tillage in a maize field in northern Zimbabwe
    (Taylor & Francis Group - Informa UK Limited, 2022-03-22) Mashavakure, Nilton; Gutukunhuwa, Bliss; Mashingaidze, Arnold B.; Gandiwa, Edson
    Earthworms are a major component of soil fauna communities with positive effects on soil chemical, biological and physical processes. A study was carried out to investigate the medium-term effects of cultural practices on earthworm communities in an agricultural field. Data were collected in the 2018/2019 cropping season from a six-year-old experiment with tillage system, fertiliser application rate and weeding intensity as the main, sub- and sub-subplots, respectively. Lumbricus (34.4%) and Diplocardia (38.3%) were the dominant genera, while endogeic earthworms (48.4%) dominated the community structure among other earthworm functional groups. Clean weeded plots under the basin planting system had higher Lumbricus abundance (quadruple), genus richness (76.4%) and Shannon diversity index (56.0%) than all other treatments. Inorganic fertiliser application in the conventional tillage system reduced Eisenia abundance and genus evenness by 100.0% and 73.3%, respectively. These results suggest that in minimum tillage systems, frequent hand weeding confers positive effects on earthworms including increased abundance. In conventional tillage systems, application of high doses of inorganic fertiliser is detrimental to earthworm communities. Further studies need to focus on identifying the most sustainable and cost-effective hand weeding frequency for enhanced earthworm diversity and increased crop productivity.
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    Field investigation of topsoil moisture and temperature as drivers for decomposition or germination of sclerotia (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) under winter-killed cover crops
    (Taylor & Francis Group - Informa UK Limited, 2021-12-26) Euteneuer, P.; Wagentristl, H.; Pauer, M.; Keimerl, M.; Schachinger, C.; Bodner, G.; Piepho, H-P; Steinkellner, S.
    Cover cropping provides versatile benefits for sustainable agriculture, but many cover crops are potential host plants for pathogens such as Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Lib.) de Bary. Therefore, 14 cover crops were investigated for their interaction with sclerotia, topsoil moisture and temperature in two consecutive field trials in East Austria. In July, after the cover crops were sown, sclerotia were inoculated at 3 cm soil depth in two mesh tubes per plot with 1×1 mm and 3×10 mm mesh size and remained until March. Cover crops did not affect decay of sclerotia, but sclerotia declined faster in 3×10 mm mesh compared to 1×1 mm (75.7 and 54.7%; respectively). Degree days reached the required 500 °C for apothecia development in September in both years, but only in year 1 was topsoil moisture sufficient for apothecia development. Nonmetric dimensional scaling revealed that, among others, topsoil temperature in March was significant for sclerotia germination in spring and was independent of plant biomass. There are indications that Poaceae such as sorghum × Sudan grass and Sudan grass can stimulate early germination under cover crops, causing vulnerability of sclerotia to degradation. This could reduce the pathogen pressure for the subsequent irrigated cash crops.
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    Forage legumes exhibit a differential potential to compete against maize and weeds and to restore soil fertility in a maize-forage legume intercrop
    (Taylor & Francis Group - Informa UK Limited, 2021-11-16) Kutamahufa, Marilyn; Matare, Lincoln; Soropoa, Gabriel; Mashavakure, Nilton; Svotwa, Ezekia; Mashingaidze, Arnold B.
    Integrating forage legumes with maize has the potential to restore soil fertility and increase grain yield among smallholder farming systems. A study was conducted over two cropping seasons to determine the effect of intercropping maize with forage legumes on soil fertility restoration, weed biomass and maize yield. Treatments involved: four cropping systems (sole maize, maize-velvet bean, maize-silverleaf, maize-cowpeas) and four fertiliser regimes (no fertiliser, 150 kg ha−1 of compound D fertiliser (7% N: 14% P2O5: 7% K2O) + 150 kg ha−1 ammonium nitrate (34.5% N), 100 kg ha−1 single super phosphate (SSP, 17.5% P2O5) and 200 kg ha−1 SSP). Maize-velvet bean intercropping reduced weed biomass by 80% relative to sole maize and maize-silverleaf intercropping. Maize-cowpea and maize-velvet bean intercropping reduced maize grain yield by 25.9% and 64.7%, respectively, compared to sole maize and maize-silverleaf intercropping. In 2017/2018, maize-silverleaf intercropping increased resin-extractable P2O5 by 60.1% compared to other cropping systems while the three fertiliser treatments increased the levels of this nutrient by 41.9–100%. The results of this study show that intercropping maize with silverleaf has the potential to restore soil fertility and control weeds, without reducing maize grain yield.