Agroecology is centred around producing healthy and nutritious food by optimising local resources whilst minimising negative effects on the environment and people. It considers the whole farm to fork cycle and is based on 10 principles. These include knowledge sharing, efficiency, providing multiple benefits, recycling nutrients and increasing resilience. Agroecological farming ensures an action in one part of the system does not negatively impact another part of the system. Find out more on the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission website.

Regenerative farming

Regenerative farming is any type of farming that looks to improve soil health and the environment and could be part of an agroecological system. It is based on the following 5 principles

  1. Don’t disturb the soil.

Soil supports a complex network of worm-holes, fungal hyphae and a labyrinth of microscopic air pockets surrounded by aggregates of soil particles. Disturbing this, by ploughing or heavy doses of fertiliser or sprays will set the system back.

  1. Keep the soil surface covered.

The impact of rain drops or burning rays of sun or frost can all harm the soil. A duvet of growing crops, or stubble residues, will protect it.

  1. Keep living roots in the soil.

In an arable rotation there will be times when this is hard to do but living roots in the soil are vital for feeding the creatures at the base of the soil food web; the bacteria and fungi that provide food for the protozoa, arthropods and higher creatures further up the chain. They also keep mycorrhizal fungi alive and thriving and these symbionts are vital for nourishing most plants and will thus provide a free fertilising and watering service for crops.

  1. Grow a diverse range of crops.

Ideally at the same time, like in a meadow. Monocultures do not happen in nature and our soil creatures thrive on variety. Companion cropping (two crops are grown at once and separated after harvest) can be successful. Cover cropping, (growing a crop which is not taken to harvest but helps protect and feed the soil) will also have the happy effect of capturing sunlight and feeding that energy to the subterranean world, at a time when traditionally the land would have been bare.

  1. Bring grazing animals back to the land.

This is more than a nod to the permanent pasture analogy, it allows arable farmers to rest their land for one, two or more years and then graze multispecies leys. These leys are great in themselves for feeding the soil and when you add the benefit of mob-grazed livestock, it supercharges the impact on the soil.

Source: 5 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture | Groundswell