PLENTY SUMMER 2020 - Page 9

sustainable. Regenerative agriculture comprises a system of holistic land management practices that leverage the power of photosynthesis by plants to help reverse climate change. How? By building soil organic matter, avoiding costly synthetic inputs, keeping living roots in the ground, maintaining plant species diversity, and integrating livestock, thereby enhancing carbon drawdown and vastly improving the water cycle. Added benefits include more nutritious food, improved wildlife habitat, more humane animal husbandry, and expansion of pollinator sources. This naturally enhances the farmer’s bottom line by decreasing the costs of inputs which increases net profit. Because of climate change, Maryland’s weather is becoming more variable. Our average temperature is rising, increasing heat stress on animals and the prevalence of crop pests and diseases. We’re likely to see more erratic precipitation, including longer lasting or more frequent droughts, as well as heavier rainfall events. Changing how we farm can help us become more climate-resilient and able to cope with that variability. Regenerative agriculture improves soil aggregate stability (see box below) which means the soil can hold more air and more water, and contains more organic matter. Heavy rains are prevented from becoming torrents of water running over the land, and moisture is beneficially held within the soil to better handle any future drought. Increased organic matter helps the soil’s microbiology to thrive with more of the nutrients plants need to prosper. More and more, we’re learning that the interconnecting network of bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi in our soil is key Soil aggregates are microhabitats for microorganisms in the soil. They are the building blocks of soil texture and are held together with organic matter, plant root exudates and bacterial and fungal microorganisms. Soil texture is also dependent upon the relative percentages of naturally occurring particles of sand, silt and clay. We can benefit the soil aggregate stability by increasing organic matter and holding onto the soil structure by not plowing it—which boosts the exchange of nutrients between plants and microorganisms within the soil. plenty I summer growing 2020 9