The next big thing in sustainable farming

Anke Kwast

Anke Kwast, soil enthusiast and Yara’s VP Climate Neutral Roadmap & Business Support, answers your questions about regenerative agriculture.

 

1. What is regenerative agriculture?

First of all, regenerative agriculture is not only about agriculture. It is about nature, climate and our food system. There is no agreed definition yet of which farming practices constitutes regenerative agriculture. A lot of work is being done in the international science and policy communities. But generally, regenerative agriculture is about just that: agricultural practices that regenerate the natural resources used in farming; soil, biodiversity and water being key resources of any farming system that we need to protect and regenerate.

At Yara, we support the view that regenerative agriculture should enhance not only the environmental, but also the social and economic dimensions of sustainable food production.  

2. What is the status of the regenerative agriculture agenda globally?

The concept of regenerative agriculture is to implement science-based practices to serve a climate-neutral and nature-positive food system. This concept needs to be translated into a framework to provide guidance for its application. This framework needs to:

  • Become a global standard by anchoring it within an existing framework for climate and nature action, and thus make it verifiable by experts and continuously updated.
  • Address all relevant aspects of farming, such as nature, climate, food security and farmer prosperity.
  • Enable an evolution from practice-based to outcome-based metrics to ease implementation.
  • Be supported by all levels of the food chain to make it affordable and attractive for farmers to implement.
  • Be adaptable to the large heterogeneity of farms and farmers.

3. How does regenerative agriculture differ from organic and sustainable farming?

I would put it the other way around and ask, “What do we have in common and how can we join forces to speed up the implementation of better practices?” This collaborative attitude will prevent us from being lost in translation and losing precious time.

We have now reached the tipping point where it is evident that we must transform the whole food system to create a more sustainable, resilient, and fair value chain. In the next few years, we have to earn the trust of all kind of farmer communities to transform to a sustainable and regenerative food production system. All initiatives and projects contributing to this goal are most welcome.

4. Isn’t reducing fertilizer use a key part of regenerative agriculture?

Yes, some experts and initiatives have that as a focus area. For many years, we have added excessive amounts of nitrogen to our soils, posing a global risk to soil and water quality. Nutrient- and nitrogen use efficiency is a key focus area for Yara. We have always focused on the importance of supplying crops with the exact type and amount of nutrients they need – no more, no less.

Increasing nutrient use efficiency, protecting and enhancing biodiversity at and around farms, improving or preserving carbon and water retention in the soil, enhancing the resilience of crops and nature and supporting the livelihoods of farming communities are key elements of the regenerative agriculture agenda that are all supported by Yara. 

5. Where does Yara fit in here?

Yara is a large agricultural company with a global presence that is actively looking for ways to reduce the climate- and nature footprint of farming and create a better food system. That is the reason Yara is activelye supporting both the engagement and implementation of regenerative agriculture practices on the ground.

Yara and its more than 1000 agronomists have unmatched offering of sustainable crop nutrition solutions, including planning, analytical services and precision farming technologies. However, there are obstacles to implementing more sustainable farming practices. The transformation comes with a cost and a risk and this has to be shared with the famers. We need to incentivize and support front runners and early adaptors in agriculture. This is where Yara’s Agoro Carbon Alliance comes in – incentivizing farmers to implement carbon smart farm practices. Sometimes only a minor change can have a big impact!

I am confident that Yara’s ambition, ‘Growing a Nature-Positive Food Future’, will give increased motivation and strength to our quest for better farming practices and a more fair and resilient food system. By making the complex simple, providing updated and tailored agronomic advice to farmers all over the world, digital farming is the future of sustainable food production.