To bring the definition of regenerative agriculture into focus, AgriTalk recently hosted Lee Briese, a crop consultant in North Dakota.
Regenerative ag, sustainable agronomy, soil health, environmental stewardship—all of these phrases and concepts are being applied to agronomic decisions being made out in the field today.
Briese says, in the way he sees things, these terms can all overlap but also mean different things while still keeping the same end goal in mind: focusing on the soil.
“All of these terms mean we are managing our soils in a better way,” he explains. “We’re helping protect them from erosion or degradation while also building them up.”
And Briese gives the analogy that it’s like categorizing music as rock music.
“There's classic rock, soft rock, and then there's hard rock. People like to associate with different parts or to be in their own little camps. But overall, it's still rock music,” he says.
He emphasizes that focusing on the soil is rooted in its three components.
“We talk about soils as three different parts: a physical system, a chemical system, and a biological system. And there was a lot of focus on those as individual parts in some of these terms,” he says.
The differentiation of practices out in the field—and how they apply to those three components of the soil—help apply the definition of the umbrella terms.
“In my view, the regenerative ag movement can focus more on the biological aspects,” he adds.
All of this discussion brings awareness to positive practices, which Briese says is a good thing.
“There are different ways to approach agriculture, and there are different focuses within it. We're trying to give back to the soil in order to build it up, give it more resiliency, and to help us produce a better crop,” he says.
So, if these phrases are viewed as being more inclusive to agronomic practices can these terms be applied to any farmer?
“I would say that it really takes a systems focus. And I'm not sure that that's the majority yet,” Briese says. “I think farmers are using the practices, but are they considering it as a system and how one practice affects the next one affects the next one? Think about that cascade effect, that's really when we start seeing improvements that we hadn't seen before.”
Listen as Briese also shares how geography can play a role in adopting agronomic practices, and how he’s made cover crops work in North Dakota.