Regenerative Agriculture is pseudo-science – false science. Its deception lies in using the language of science without the substance of science – evidence. Its very name is deceptive because ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ implies conventional agriculture farming is degenerative. It rides on a worldwide wave of negativity that asserts that we – humans – are destroying our planet.

But stand back and look at the big picture.

If conventional agriculture is degenerative how come agricultural production continues to increase. Google “Our World in Data”. Pick any crop and any country and the same picture emerges – agricultural production increases year on year. The evidence does not support the suggestion that our soils are degenerating.

RA enthusiasts make a big deal of the benefits of RA on soil quality and health, with a major emphasis on soil biology, and suggest conventional agriculture is having a negative effect on soil quality/health? What does the evidence tell us?

New Zealand soil scientists got together over two decades ago and came up with a minimum set of soil tests which collectively describe soil quality. Seven tests were identified: three which measured the soil biological activity, two which measured soil chemistry, and two that measured soil physical quality. Target ranges were defined for each.

These tests have been used in nationwide surveys (in 2014 and again in 2017) of across all land use sectors (agriculture, horticulture and forestry) in NZ and indicate, with some exceptions, that our NZ soils are in good heart especially in terms of soil biology!

They also make some outrageous claims about fertiliser. They claim, contrary to the scientific evidence, that chemical fertilisers, especially superphosphate and urea, kill the soil biology, making the soil sterile. In any case, they argue soluble fertiliser are not required because RA practices feed the soil biology and thus unlock otherwise unavailable nutrients, and especially P, from the soil reserves. Once again this is not supported by science.

Sometimes science must be asserted. As Charles Darwin put it: sometimes to kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.

  • Dr Edmeades is an independent soil scientist and consultant.