This is The ChangeUnderground for the 26th of December 2022.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
In this episode, we will be discussing the benefits and practices of regenerative agriculture for small-scale farmers.
But before we dive into the details, let’s start by defining what regenerative agriculture is. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that focuses on rebuilding and enhancing the health of the soil. It involves a set of practices that work with nature to regenerate and revitalise the land, rather than exploiting it.
So why is regenerative agriculture important for small farmers?
First and foremost, regenerative agriculture can improve the health and productivity of the soil. By using techniques like cover cropping, minimal tillage, and composting, farmers can increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, which helps to improve its structure and water-holding capacity. This can lead to higher crop yields and more resilient plants, which can be especially important for small farmers who may not have the resources to invest in expensive inputs like chemical fertilisers.
In addition to improving soil health, regenerative agriculture can also have a number of other benefits for small farmers. For example, it can reduce the need for irrigation, as healthy soil is better able to hold onto moisture. This can be especially important for farmers in areas with limited water resources.
Regenerative agriculture can also help to sequester carbon in the soil, which can help to mitigate the effects of climate change. This is a significant benefit for small farmers, who are often among the most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate.
But perhaps most importantly, regenerative agriculture can help to create a more sustainable and resilient farming system. By working with nature and building the health of the soil, farmers can create a system that is more resistant to pests, diseases, and extreme weather events. This can help to ensure the long-term viability of small farms and the communities that depend on them.
So, how can small farmers get started with regenerative agriculture?
One of the key things to understand is that regenerative agriculture is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It involves a variety of practices that can be customised to the needs and resources of each individual farm.
Some common practices in regenerative agriculture include:
- Cover cropping: This involves planting a variety of crops in between seasons to help improve soil health and structure.
- Minimal tillage: This involves using minimal disturbance of the soil, which helps to preserve the structure and integrity of the soil.
- Composting: This involves breaking down organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used to fertilise crops.
- Rotational grazing: This involves moving animals around to different areas of pasture, which can help to promote the growth of a diverse range of plants and improve soil health.
In addition to these practices, small farmers can also seek out resources and support from organisations and networks that specialise in regenerative agriculture. These can provide valuable guidance and help farmers connect with other like-minded individuals.
In conclusion, regenerative agriculture can offer a range of benefits for small farmers, including improved soil health, higher crop yields, reduced irrigation needs, carbon sequestration, and a more sustainable and resilient farming system. By understanding the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture, small farmers can take an important step towards building a more sustainable and thriving future for their farms and communities.
Ok. Everything I’ve just read after the intro was generated by chatGPT, an artificial intelligence tool. Could’ve been written by me, it’s sort of in the same vein but it was generated by the tool. My question, one of many, is how do we discover new things when this technology becomes ubiquitous? Are we accelerating the homogenization of culture and ideas by relying upon these tools? I’m, frankly, not really qualified to answer but the question remains. I suspect we have less to worry about from the singularity, that point where AI and human intelligence are equal followed by the dystopian future rule of the machines than we have from the homogenising effects of current AI. The echo chamber effect we see on social media where things we have shown interest in are continually repeated back to us because we liked them once. Who is running the algorithms? Coding? Driving parameters of these things and what is their aim? Are all good questions to contemplate, I believe.
Then we come to AI in agriculture. Clearly we already have artificial insemination using those letters but let’s explore artificial intelligence.
From a webpage entitled: Towards Future Farming: How Artificial Intelligence is transforming the Agriculture Industry on the Wipro site:
Every day, farms produce thousands of data points on temperature, soil, usage of water, weather conditions, etc. With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning models, this data is leveraged in real-time for obtaining useful insights like choosing the right time to sow seeds, determining the crop choices, hybrid seed choices to generate more yields and the like.
Really? This just sounds like more data and conventional decision making processes. My concern is when the whole process is handed over so that some sort of AI is deciding what to grow, when and for whom. Imagine a situation where the parameters include sustainability, soil health, yield, returns and profitability but the starting point data comes from an agrochemical seed production conglomerate.
What sort of results are likely to arise from those parameters and a “logical” application of the desired outcomes?
Garbage in, garbage out.
In the novel Dune there’s reference to a thing called the Butlerian Jihad where masses rose up and smashed the machines. Individuals capable of making decisions, if trained from early childhood, replaced the machines. Keeping the human element is important. Dune was released in 1965. We’ve known what was coming, it is here already. There’s a Dr Who series from the 1970s where two enemies of the Doctor kidnap a young girl to attacth to their computer systems to add an element of human thinking, the leap of intuition to overcome the logic stalemate the sides had fought themselves to. We have been warned, if we were listening.
The threats to our food systems are growing. We need to both grow our own and form links with others also growing their own. Swap seeds, find like minded individuals, groups. Informal and formal links will get us through and a willingness to fight those who have decided what is in “our” best interests and coincidentally, their shareholders’ interests too.
The ChangeUnderground Academy no-dig gardening course is still available. Link in the show notes. Please tell your friends!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back, all things being equal, next week.
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Towards Future Farming: How Artificial Intelligence is transforming the Agriculture Industry