Regenerative agriculture: restoring ecosystems to oppose climate change

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Regenerative agriculture has recently gained popularity, especially thanks to its ability to oppose climate change, but it is no new technique. Its origins date back centuries when Indigenous populations used such practices to sustain and restore their land while maintaining a balance between humans and the rest of the planet.

What is regenerative agriculture? 

What is regenerative agriculture? It has no universal definition. It is specific to each site and context and can be better defined by its outcomes. Regenerative agriculture also entails ongoing improvements and clear methods to analyze and measure them.

Enhancing soil health and rebalancing ecosystems are however the foundation of regenerative agriculture. Soil health has many benefits for our planet indeed. It mainly allows the storage of more CO2 below ground and could then be one of the solutions for climate change. Other advantages of regenerative agriculture are usually linked to biodiversity and water availability and quality.

What does regenerative agriculture mean to Candiani Denim? 

Lacking a general definition, Candiani Denim sought to define on its own what regenerative agriculture means. According to the company, regenerative agriculture “aims at restoring the natural functions of the land by improving soil health and rebalancing ecosystems. It is an ongoing continual improvement process in which practices differ based on soil properties and biological and climatic dynamics. When taken as an aggregate, they have a net positive impact on the social, environmental, and economic needs of the farm/-ers’ and the community at large”.

What are regenerative agricultural practices?

There are different regenerative agricultural practices farmers can use depending on their own specific needs, especially related to soil and climate types. They can also be combined and applied together to reach better results.

Some of the most common practices include:

• cover crops, which are recommended to protect and enrich the soil

• crop rotation, i.e. changing the crop grown on a piece of land season after season

• no or reduced tillage, so the soil is not mechanically agitated, killing as a consequence a lot of microorganisms that make it healthy

What are the benefits of regenerative agriculture? 

Regenerative agriculture entails many benefits, such as:

• healthy soils need less water and can better bear droughts and floods

• healthy soils reduce soil erosion

• plants are stronger and healthier and accordingly require less chemical fertilizers and are more resistant to pests and weeds

• healthy soils can keep more CO2 below ground

• there is more biodiversity both above and below ground

• healthy soils ensure better yields

• farmers benefit from an increase in financial profitability and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

What is the difference between organic and regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture can be considered the new frontier of organic agriculture, even if the two of them are not rivals. They can actually be seen as complementary and have similar features and goals: both are sustainable agriculture solutions that work with nature and combine scientific with traditional practices.

The difference lies in the focal point these two types of agriculture have. Organic one focuses on processes and defines clear rules to follow to grow crops in a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. Its purpose is to eliminate potentially harmful practices, toxic chemicals, and genetically modified organisms. Regenerative agriculture focuses on outcomes and aims at having the most significant overall positive impact by restoring natural ecosystems. Its priority is soil health.

What is regenagri®?

regenagri® is an initiative to support farms and organizations in their transition toward regenerative agricultural practices. It aims at increasing soil organic matter, enhancing biodiversity, restoring the natural functions of the ecosystem, isolating CO2, and improving hydrogen, carbon, and nutrient cycles.

How do the regenagri® Standard Criteria work?  

To certify a farm using its Standard Criteria, regenagri® looks at its entire operation, takes into account the management strategies and practices used, and assesses its regenerative impact. regenagri® collects and monitors all the farm data it needs to define its regenerative score, which must be at least 65% to get certified. Unless they have a 90+% score, farms have to demonstrate yearly improvements to keep their certificate.

Companies and products can get the regenagri® Content Standard certificate. It focuses on the content of regeneratively grown fibers, from the first processing step to the final product. Fabrics must contain at least 40% regeneratively grown fibers to be recognized by regenagri®.

In November 2021, Candiani Denim became the first company certified according to the regenagri® Chain of Custody program, which succeeds the Content Standard certificate. The requirements to get the Chain of Custody standard include traceability, identification, and segregation (for example, checking that there is no contamination between certified and non-certified materials).

“We believe in a future where regeneratively grown cotton is the industry standard. We are happy to be the first to partner with regenagri® to support this transition and consider them to be the best positioned to advance the widespread adoption and comprehensive verification of regenerative practices”, Alberto Candiani, president of Candiani Denim, said. 

Why has Candiani Denim chosen regenagri®?

Candiani Denim chose to work with regenagri® since it provides an immediate solution to current challenges. The initiative focuses on continuous improvement rather than keeping the status quo. According to Candiani Denim, which sources regenerative cotton in Spain and Greece, this approach goes to the heart of regenerative agriculture.

Moreover, regenagri® provides both farms and organizations with a complete solution to make the ongoing adoption of regenerative agriculture methods easier, meets farmers where they are, and makes its standard appropriate for them. Eventually, the regenagri® has the potential to become a widely adopted standard and a scalable solution to face some of the global most alarming issues.

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