REGENERATIVE LAND MANAGEMENT

Decision Making

Our decision-making has been the cause of land degradation in human civilisations for thousands of years. Great civilisations have come and gone, and their collapse has been the result of poor decision-making. Developed by Allan Savory, holistic management is a new decision-making framework that managers in a variety of enterprises, cultures, and countries are using to help ensure that the decisions they take are economically, socially, and environmentally sound in both short and long-term. This decision making process can be used to then determine what methodologies or process we can us in our land management.

HSA promotes any regenerative land management technologies that have been proven to work over long periods of time. Our focus is on what innovative farmers and graziers are actually doing, independently of current scientific knowledge or theorizing, and doing independently of the sometimes-stifling dogma that accompanies the instruction of individual soil remediation techniques. Listed below, in no particular order, are different techniques practiced by HSA members, which can be adapted to either broad acre or intensive farming.

Regenerative Land Management 

  • Regenerative Grazing Principles
  • Multi-Species Cover Cropping
  • Permaculture
  • Pasture Cropping
  • Natural Sequence Farming
  • Silvopastures
  • Keyline Farming
  • Johnson-Su Bioreactor Compost
  • Biological Products

Regenerative Grazing Management

Time control grazing was developed to mimic the natural grazing patterns of the large herds of grazing animals that roamed the major grasslands of the world. It operates on the premise that grass plants and soil need adequate rest after being grazed by animals. 

These are the regenerative grazing principles from Resource Consulting Services

  1. Plan, Monitor and Manage grazing
  2. Control of time is adjusted to suit the growth rate of the plant
  3. Stocking rate is adjusted to match carrying capacity
  4. Manage livestock effectively
  5. Maximise stock density for minimum time
  6. Use diversity of plants and animals to improve ecosystem services

Regenerative grazing management requires that there is a balance between animal production, grasslands and the economics of our enterprises. Animal grazing, digestion and trampling also play an important role in soil health. Time-controlled or cell grazing management for animal production improve animal and pasture production as well as increase soil carbon sequestration when compared with set stocked continuous grazing systems. With good grazing management it is possible to regenerate degraded landscapes back to healthy functioning ecosystems.

Video below:The science and research of Regenerative grazing presented by Dr Richard Teague, Associate Resident Professor at Texas A&M Agrilife Research.

Multi-Species Cover Cropping

Cover crops are crops grown to improve the farming system and soil health. Cover crops are typically planted between rotations of income-producing crops or they can also be planted at the same time. Cover crops fulfill a wide variety of management objectives. There are many species of cover crops to choose from. The use of cover crops allows for the integrate the cropping and livestock enterprises. The a diverse mix helps increase the organic matter content of soils (approximately two-thirds of organic matter increase comes from roots). This cover crop is then grazed, cattle are depositing dung and urine on the cropland where it will be consumed by macro and micro-organisms which, in turn will supply the nutrients needed for subsequent crops.

Gabe Brown’s Soil Health Principles

  1. Limit disturbance. Limit mechanical, chemical, and physical disturbance of soil.
  2. Armour. Keep soil covered at all times.
  3. Diversity. Strive for diversity of both plants and animal species.
  4. Living roots. Maintain a living root in soil as long as possible throughout the years.
  5. Integrate animals. Nature does not function without animals

Cover Cropping for videos - Gabe Brown South Dakota

Permaculture 

Permaculture is a set of systems designed to meet human needs while regenerating the land around us. These techniques were developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s to describe their integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man, which involved consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships formed in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.

Holmgren, David, 2002, Permaculture, Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren Design Services, Hepburn, Victoria.

Pasture Cropping 

Pasture cropping is an innovative land management techniques that enables annual crops to be grown opportunistically into a dormant perennial pastures, or pastures whose competitive capacity have temporarily been suppressed by grazing, and or selective herbicides to enable the successful growth of annual crops. 

In contrast to conventional cropping that is sown into bare soil or stubble, Pasture Cropping creates and exploits temporary competitive niches in the root ecology of the perennial pastures to enable the optimal growth of

the short term annual grain crop. Pasture Cropping avoids the need to kill the competitive pasture prior to sowing the crop thereby maintaining living plant cover of the soil so as to enhance its biological health, water retention and their protection from wind and water erosion relative to conventional crop practices. 

Colin Seis has seen the need for  ‘fast tracking’ improvement of degraded soil and grasslands as well as producing crops for human consumption and/ or stock feed. Since 2010 he has developing ‘multi-species’ pasture cropping’ with the aim of producing better quality forage and improving soil health even more that single species pasture cropping does. 

Multi-species pasture cropping uses all the methods used in ‘pasture cropping/ but with the addition of 10 or more compatible annual plants that are sown at the same time. The mix of species improves soil microbial health, soil structure, nutrient cycling, as well as produces excellent stock feed. It has the added advantages of being able to harvest a grazing crop after the multi species crop is removed via grazing.

Natural Sequence Farming 

Soil moisture can best be managed through improved soil structure, and especially through building up soil organic matter/soil carbon, and particularly humus. Water-holding capacity increase per hectare for varying humus increases. For every additional 1% increase in soil organic matter, the soil can hold an additional 166,000 litre of water.

In addition to using soil structure to improve moisture, it can also be managed in two other ways: 

  • From the top down through rainfall and;
  • From the bottom up through hydrolation. 

Hydrolation relies on the capillary action of soils to deliver moisture from below. The term Hydrolation was coined by HSA to describe the process of water management. The Hydrological Cycle (water) governs 95% of the heat dynamics of the planet. Therefore if we can increase the soil carbon via photosynthesis, and plants sequesters carbon exudates to feed soil fungi and bacteria, we can improve water infiltration and water holding capacity of the soil. 

In Australia the key principles of hydrolation have been developed by Peter Andrews through his work on restoring the natural chain-of-ponds hydrology that was commonplace in some parts of Australia. In the nineteenth century, overstocking and the removal of vegetation increased run-off and incised deep erosion gullies, resulting in dehydration of the landscape.

Hydrolation techniques involve slowing (not stopping) runoff and increasing infiltration of water into the soil. Peter Andrews uses vegetation and physical structures (leaky weirs) strategically placed in eroded gullies to lift water tables and restore flood plain functioning. Instead of rainfall events producing high levels of runoff which further scour out existing water ways and increase desiccation of the surrounding landscape, a hydrolated landscape, in conjunction with better soil structure built by increased soil microbiological activity, delivers water to plants and river systems over a longer period through slow percolation. 

 Yeoman’s key line ploughing systems and Whittington’s interceptor banks have also been successfully used to slow runoff and increase water infiltration. In addition to deep incised gullies, Australia’s larger rivers have also become deeply incised resulting in the loss of soil moisture from the surrounding countryside. In the past, riverbanks were higher than the surrounding countryside as a result of periodic flooding and the depositing of silt on the banks. As a result, flood plains held water for long periods. Restoring flood plains to hydrolate the landscape is increasingly being recognised.

Silvopastures

Silvopasture (Latin, silva forest) is the practice of integrating trees and forgae and the grazing of domesticated animals, in a mutually beneficial way. It utilizes the principles of regenerative grazing, and it is one of several distinct forms of agroforestry.

Properly-managed silvopasture can increase overall productivity and long-term income due to the simultaneous production of tree crops, forage, and livestock, and can provide environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration. Silvopasture is one of the oldest known forms of agriculture, and has been practiced in many parts of the world for centuries. Silvopasture is not the same as unmanaged grazing in woodlands, which has many known negative environmental consequences

Keyline Farming

Keyline is ordered set of principles, techniques and systems. When fully utilised, Keyline Designs produce strategies and tactics to develop the natural or existing landscape through regeneration and enhancement.

Australian P.A. Yeomans in 1954 pioneered topsoil regeneration, on farm irrigation dams, chisel ploughs, contour ripping and non-terraced flood irrigation. Topsoil regeneration in the Yoeman’s system is a consequence of farm contour and tree planting design which enhances water retention and heals erosion and salinity, cell rotational grazing and mechanical soil aeration.

One of the typical benefits of Keyline is the rapid development of living soil.

Johnson-Su Bioreactor Compost

Dr. David C. Johnson, molecular biologist and research scientist at the University of New Mexico, has developed a system that brings lifeless soils back to life by reintroducing beneficial microorganisms to the soil with biologically enhanced compost.

The Johnson-Su composting method creates compost teeming with microorganisms that improve soil health and plant growth and increase the soil's potential to sequester carbon. This simple composting method produces a biologically enhanced compost by creating an environment where beneficial soil microorganisms and thrive and multiply. When this biologically alive compost is applied to the soil the microorganisms inoculate the soil and work in harmony with growing plants to improve soil health and increase the amount of carbon drawn out of the atmosphere and into the soil.

Benefits of Johnson-Su Bioreactor Compost:

  • Increases soil carbon sequestration
  • Increases crop yield
  • Increases soil nutrient availability
  • Increases soil water-retention capacity
  • Produces biologically diverse compost
  • Produces nutrient–rich compost
  • Results in a low-salinity compost
  • Improves seed germination and growth rates

Benefits of Johnson-Su Bioreactor Composting System:

  • Reduces water usage up to six times
  • Reduces composting labor time by 66 percent
  • Requires no turning and little manpower
  • Is a low–tech process that can easily be replicated
  • Can be made using a diversity of compost materials
  • Produces no odors or associated insects
  • Materials generally cost less than $35 USD and can be used for up to 10 times
  • No leaching or groundwater contamination

See the following resources on how to build the Johnson-Su Bioreactor and the benefits of using the compost from this system.

Biological Products 

Unpatented and patented compost tea and nutrient mixes.

The art of making compost has found a broad scale application with the modification of existing spraying equipment to directly deliver microorganisms brewed by a number of different ways to the soil in the paddock. In compost tea, a compost starter pack is used from compost made from a diversity of sources, and known to contain microorganisms beneficial to the plants cropped. The tea is brewed with water, much like making beer. The microorganisms proliferate rapidly under the right conditions, to numbers where paddocks can be sprayed with the mix, significantly boosting the soil microorganism population. Nutrient mixes can also be added to the spray.

Sprays can also be made to spray on the plants themselves, reducing foliar diseases and discouraging pest attack.

Compost tea can be obtained commercially as well as being suitable to being made on-farm in large quantities.

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