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Regenerative Agriculture: A tool to fight climate change

by Food Drinks Innovation
Amrendra Mishra, Country Manager of India and Managing Director of Oilseeds, India ADM

Agricultural activity has intensified in the past two decades to meet the nutritional needs of the growing population. To ensure that we are able to feed a growing population for generations to come, there is an urgent need to implement more sustainable agricultural practices that increase the climate resiliency of crops and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world’s most populous economy, Southeast Asia emits a large amount of greenhouse gas. In fact, India is projected to reach 1.429 billion people this year to become the world’s most populous country in 20231. The country’s rapidly growing population will inevitably lead to an increase in demand for food and resources, contributing to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the region. India has announced its ambition to reach net zero by 20702, and to accelerate decarbonisation, the agriculture sector must find effective ways to sequester carbon and consider a more sustainable way of producing food to reduce emissions at the field-level.

Combatting climate change through regenerative farming
Regenerative farming is a promising pathway to produce food while decreasing agriculture’s carbon footprint, improving soil health and protecting water quality. In simple terms, it takes on a conservation and rehabilitation approach to farming systems. Not only does it reduce the adverse impacts of farming on the environment, but it can also bring net positive changes to improve the overall ecosystem.3

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming that helps to rebuild the health of our soils while producing food to feed the world. The principles of regenerative agriculture system are based in indigenous ways of land management and are adaptive to local physical conditions and culture. They include:

•Maintaining living roots in soil
•Maximizing diversity – crops, soil, pollinators
•Minimizing soil disturbance
•Continuously covering soil
•Responsibly managing inputs – fertilizers, pesticides

Regenerative agriculture practices also seek to improve soil health by rehabilitating and enhancing the entire agri-food ecosystem instead of destroying or depleting food resources. By increasing soil biodiversity and organic matter, it gives rise to more climate-resilient soils. Soils can sequester significant amounts of carbon each year with regenerative agriculture helping to maximise carbon inputs to soils and minimise soil disturbance. As a result, regenerative agriculture brings benefits to both the farmers and the environment – it can improve harvest yields and the nutrient density of crops 4 while enhancing the natural environment. In the long run, this can translate into higher profitability for farmers with a greater diversity and volume of crops.

For more than two decades, ADM India has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture to support 250,000 smallholder farmers in India’s Maharashtra and Karnataka states in the move towards developing a more sustainable value chain. The programme provides small and midsize growers with sustainability resources, technology, best conservation practices and market connections. These smallholder farmers are now able to access global markets as registered vendors with ADM, allowing them to increase their income and meet the growing global demand for certified organic and non-GMO soy.

Just last year, ADM signed a partnership with Bayer to provide training to 25,500 soybean farmers in the Latur, Osmanabad and Beed districts of Maharashtra on responsible crop cultivation and protection practices. Tapping into ADM’s large network of farmers in the state, this partnership will help to enhance the level of compliance to sustainable standards of agricultural production in the region by educating farmers on seed treatments, pesticides and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices.

ADM’s partnership with Coromandel International Limited (Coromandel) builds on the company’s efforts with Bayer, training 25,500 farmers through the ProTerra Foundation on non-GMO quality and sustainable agriculture production. We are currently working with Coromandel to monitor the impacts of sustainable agricultural practices on soil health over the three-year programme. This allows us to analyse soil samples from 3,000 farmers so we can consistently document and track improvements in organic soil carbon content. As the bridge between growers and consumer-facing brands, ADM’s global capabilities allow us to help scale these sustainable practices across the value chain and farming ecosystem in the region.

For several years, ADM has partnered with farmers to implement sustainable and regenerative agriculture programs. These range from educational events to payments for practice implementation to helping farmers achieve certifications and purchasing certified volumes. In North America, our re:generationsTM programme engaged 1,900 farmers growing commodities on 1.2 million acres in regenerative agriculture projects in its inaugural year5 . Across 19 different projects, ADM’s regenerative agriculture acres emitted 253,000 MT less CO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) than the benchmark, and ADM has set a goal to increase enrolment to 4 million acres globally by 2025.6

Enhancing environmental and food security
Climate change continues to be one of the major challenges of our time, but regenerative agriculture can be seen as part of the solution. If we act soon, it can possibly lead the race to achieve the United Nations’ International Energy Agency’s goal of net-zero food systems by 2050. As a key contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture must play a key role in helping to advance climate action. Only a concerted effort by all stakeholders in India’s food ecosystem will enable widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture to help feed the world sustainably and safely care for our planet.

  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/28/asia/india-population-overtakes-china-graphics-intl-hnk-dst-dg/index.html#:~:text=India%20is%20expected%20to%20surpass,recording%20population%20rankings%20in%201950.
  2. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/sustainability/our-insights/decarbonising-india-charting-a-pathway-for-sustainable-growth
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.577723/full#B36
  4. https://peerj.com/articles/12848/
  5. ADM, 2022 Corporate Sustainability Report
  6. ADM, 2022 Corporate Sustainability Report

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