Regenerative Farming for Healthier Soil and Healthier Food

In 1968 , Paul Ehrlich predicted that the rapidly growing world population would soon overwhelm the ability to produce enough food to feed itself. His enormously influential book The Population Bomb, Ehrlich paints a Malthusian vision of mass starvation.

The first sentence set the tone: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” And humanity had lost. In the 1970s, the book promised, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” No matter what people do, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

But other forces were at work. In the 1940’s an American Scientist, Norman Borlaug, began experimenting with wheat varieties in Mexico, and produced a disease resistant strain.

By combining Borlaug’s wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to them becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.

And this was the start of what became known as the Green Revolution. New strains of wheat, rice, and corn were developed that had significantly higher yields per acre than previous strains. These strains required high usage of nitrogen fertilizer and industrial pesticides Supported by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, these techniques soon began to dominate agriculture in much of the world These Green Revolution techniques have dramatically increased crop yields for rice and wheat throughout the world. Green Revolution advocates point out that the spread of these intensive farming techniques and the higher output they have produced have sustained a growing world population,

Countries all over the world, in turn, benefited from the Green Revolution work conducted by Borlaug and this research institution. India, for example, was on the brink of mass famine in the early 1960s because of its rapidly growing population. Borlaug and the Ford Foundation then implemented research there and they developed a new variety of rice, IR8, that produced more grain per plant when grown with irrigation and fertilizers. Today, India is one of the world’s leading rice producers and IR8 rice usage spread throughout Asia in the decades following the rice’s development in India.

But every advance comes with a cost. The heavy use of fertilizer and pesticides have polluted waterways, causing toxic algae blooms, been heavily implicated in colony collapse disorder and the decline of the honeybee population. Heavy use of pesticides have been linked to health problems in rural populations.

A new study of the Berkley University of California finds that elemental sulfur, one of the most heavily used pesticides to control fungus and pests, is significantly associated to the development of asthma-related symptoms and reduced lung functions in children living in close proximity to the farms where pesticides are used.

And now, a new study indicates that these practices have also deleted soil and produced less healthy and nutritious food. A new series of techniques collectively known as regenerative agriculture uses techniques including no-till, cover crops, and crop rotations, along with the use of natural fertilizers, such as manure and compost, to rebuild the soil. Preliminary results indicate that these techniques produce healthier, more sustainable soil, and more nutritious food

They found crops from regenerative agriculture farms on average had 34 percent more vitamin K, 15 percent more vitamin E, 14 percent more vitamin B1, 17 percent more vitamin B2, 11 percent more calcium, 16 percent more phosphorus and 27 percent more copper. For phytochemicals, there was a range of 15 to 22 percent more in regeneratively farmed foods, depending on the type of compound.

Healthier food, healthier soil, less runoff pollution.

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