22 Apr 4 Regenerative Agriculture Practices to Increase Soil Health
“As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil health and productive is of paramount importance.”
As stated by the USDA, There are a few practices that you can implement to get started down the path of regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic field management system that helps restore soil carbon, microbial communities, physical structure, and water holding capacity by following a couple of key principles. These core principles, as explained by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, help improve critical components of a productive soil ecosystem: soil health and soil quality.
Soil health is the biological integrity of your field and focuses on supporting plant growth. Soil quality refers to how well soil functions physically, chemically, and biologically and does its “job” (e.g., crop production).
- Minimize soil disturbance: Everyone loves the smell of freshly tilled soil, but this common practice can provide serious setbacks for a regenerative program. When you run a plow or disk through the field, you disturb and crush small soil structures, called aggregates, that help keep the soil ‘open’ and allow for water movement and storage, gas exchange for roots, and the storage and exchange of plant nutrients. When soil aggregates are eliminated by tillage, these positive characteristics of a field begin to diminish. Furthermore, tilling fields also allow for occluded carbon to decompose (and blow off as a gas) by microbes. Thus, the field loses organic matter over time. Reducing tillage is a core component of regenerative agriculture. It limits disturbance and allows the soil to recover and begin building structure again.
- Keep soil covered: This shouldn’t surprise anybody, but bare, uncovered soil is highly prone to erosion. This erosion comes from runoff generated by water or from wind that removes soil as dust. If you are continually losing soil to the elements, it will be difficult to regenerate your field. Keeping the soil covered is key for reducing erosion and can be done in two ways. First, a grower can use crop residues (e.g., leftover plant parts after harvest) to keep the soil covered and reduce erosion. Second, another option is to plant a living green crop that keeps the soil covered during the main crop’s ‘off-season.’ Both options will protect the field and keep more soil on-site for future use.
- Maximize the period of living root growth: This principle is strongly related to keeping the soil covered as much as possible, as a growing plant can help keep the soil covered and protect the field from soil loss. This beneficial plant can be both the main crop(s) or an ‘off season’ cover crop. Another key reason to keep the soil covered is due to the relationship between plant roots and soil microbes. Plant roots benefit from the presence of soil microbes because these microscopic partners help make nutrients available and help secrete materials that stick soil particles together. Plant roots secrete substances called exudates that help feed this soil microbial community. When plants are growing throughout the year, there is a consistent food supply for the microbiomes, whereas bare, open fields lack these exudate inputs, and thus, the microbial community suffers.
- Maximize plant diversity: Diversity is the final core component and helps support the previous three principles. In this sense, diversity refers to the crops grown in a planned rotation, as opposed to year over year monoculture. Crop rotations have the benefit of breaking disease cycles and can reduce yield loss seen with continuous cultivation of a single crop. Crop rotations can also take advantage of different tillage needs if reduced tillage is followed. Along these lines, both diverse cash and cover crops keep your soil covered but also support a healthy soil microbial community (creating the ideal regenerative environment).
While there is still some debate regarding the exact specifics of regenerative agriculture, it is important to focus on what the different schools of thought have in common and how they easily fit into the diversity of agricultural operations that are out there.
The core commonalities are best illustrated by the four principles described above. Whether this is your first harvest season or your thirtieth, there is always room to improve the ground that you farm. The four core principles described in this post can be implemented on your farm this season to help put you down the road towards regenerative agriculture and improving your soil for the long term.
Learn more about regenerative agriculture by contacting us directly.
The Role of Conventional and Organic Soil Amendments
Soil amendments are used in agriculture to support plant growth and development. Amendments derived from plant and animal sources are applied to fields to improve organic matter and nutrient status of the soil. An amendment must be thoroughly mixed into the soil to work properly and provide the desired response. If it is simply applied to the surface or buried at a shallow depth, its effectiveness is reduced, interfering with water and air movement and root growth (Davis and Whiting 2013).
It is no surprise that soil is the key to regenerative agriculture. The goal should be to retain the soil we have, improve the soil that remains, and restore the soil we have lost. It is possible to add significant organic matter and improve soil beyond its original state. We pioneered the understanding of how a balanced soil microbiome improves resilience, plant vigor, and marketable yields even under stressed conditions.
Microbes are a key indicator of soil health. They may live only days but accomplish much in a short span. They are essential to the soil system impacting structure, water, fertility, and resilience. So, at Heliae Agriculture, we focus on improving soil health by improving soil microbes. Our products improve the relative abundance of beneficial microbes by as much as three times. Plants will benefit directly from increased bio-available nutrients, and the environmental improvements include less erosion, with better water management. The result is better crops and a better environment.
The Effects of PhycoTerra
When added to the soil, PhycoTerra® is powered by innovative microalgae that boosts the soil microbiome naturally. Both PhycoTerra® and PhycoTerra® Organic are sustainably produced soil microbial food, or soil amendments, that unlike other agriculture products, work to restore the natural quality of the soil and balance in the overall soil ecosystem. With just one application of PhycoTerra®, it can start building soil health.
Heliae® Agriculture delivers solutions to growers to make regenerative agriculture possible. It’s revolutionary because it’s not a plant fertilizer; it is rather a superfood for microbes that stimulates the rapid growth of beneficial microbes.
Comparing PhycoTerra® Conventional & Organic
PhycoTerra® and PhycoTerra® Organic products offer a way to help complement your existing amendment program without any of the challenges. Both feed the soil microbiome, which leads to measurable improvements in soil function, such as improved soil structure, increased water holding capacity, active carbon content, and plant nutrient availability. Our organic product is fully OMRI and CDFA certified and is ready for use on your organic farming operation.
Conventional or organic, the PhycoTerra® product line helps supercharge the desired impacts of gypsum, manures, and composts all in one product application. The product is a liquid and can be applied with common tractor implements and irrigation types, without the bulk material handling logistics mentioned above. PhycoTerra® products do not require tillage after application as they are fully soluble in the soil, seed safe, and go to work immediately after application. The products are readily compatible with many fertilizers – conventional and organic – and can be water run, used in a starter, or side-dress application. Aboveground, we also show consistent positive crop yield response with the use of PhycoTerra® and have optimal application rates and timings listed, by crop, on our tech sheets.
Partner with The Leaders in Regenerative Agriculture
Our mission is to create sustainable microalgae products and solutions that enhance soil, plant, animal, and human health.
Our mission includes the usage of PhycoTerra® and PhycoTerra® Organic soil amendments. We lead with an empirical, science-based approach and have invested in state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, and staff to provide leadership in the regenerative agriculture space.
Our robust field and greenhouse research program (400+ trials) and we continually demonstrate how a program that includes the PhycoTerra® line can bring value and a return on investment this season and in the years to come by improving the health and quality of the soil. In this sense, a grower can count on us as a dependable partner in their commitment to regenerating their fields.
The PhycoTerra® product line fits the regenerative agriculture model as it helps drive a key component of a healthy soil system – the feedback between the plant and the soil microbial system. PhycoTerra® feeds the soil microbiome, which leads to measurable improvements, or regenerated, soil functions. Benefits include improvements in soil structure, increased water holding capacity, and plant nutrient availability. This improvement is followed by a consistent positive crop yield response on the farm.
Our research at Heliae® Agriculture has led to creating a quality microalgae product for your regenerative agriculture program. To learn more about our flagship product line, PhycoTerra® and PhycoTerra® Organic, and how it enhances the marketable yield value and benefits the soil through increased carbon and water efficiency, click here or contact us directly.