Why Do Farmers and Ranchers Adopt Regenerative Practices?

This week’s Scoop comes to us from Michelle Klampe of Oregon State University.

Regenerative ranching, a holistic approach to managing grazing lands, enhances ranchers’ adaptive capacity and socioeconomic well-being while also providing an opportunity to mitigate climate change, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

Regenerative ranching practices rebuild ecological processes, allowing ranchers to reduce reliance on products such as chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, which are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

While some science suggests that regenerative ranching can result in climate change mitigation through carbon drawdown into soils, rsearcher Hannah Gosnell found that is not usually the driving factor behind ranchers’ decision to adopt the practices.

“The most common benefit of regenerative agriculture mentioned was the increase in deep ground cover, which increases soil carbon sequestration and leads to increased forage for livestock and greater resilience to stressors such as droughts, floods or freezing temperatures. Because ranchers using regenerative practices were not dependent on expensive chemicals, they also were less vulnerable to financial shocks and stressors, which in turn increased their resilience,” Gosnell said. “This inspires them to continue with regenerative practices, which then leads to more ecological improvement, better economic returns and more positive feedback for the rancher.”

Quote from rancher interviewed for Gosnell/Charnley paper.

She and her colleagues also learned that the transition to regenerative ranching is often difficult because the practices require a thorough understanding of the fundamental ecosystem processes involved. “Because it requires such a deep commitment,” Gosnell said. “If you want ranchers to make the switch, paying them is likely not motivation enough.”

Helping producers overcome the steep learning curve is critical to future adoption. This could include government supported peer-to-peer learning. She concludes her paper by saying,

Quote from rancher interviewed for Gosnell/Charnley paper.

“Our results underscore the win–win nature of engaging ranchers in regenerative agriculture since their contributions to climate change mitigation are not seen as a burden, but rather something that makes them better off. …Ultimately, ranchers will be most likely to adopt new practices if those practices reduce their risk to stressors and increase their adaptive capacity. Regenerative ranching has the potential to do this, thereby reducing GHG emissions, enhancing natural carbon sinks, and increasing adaptation, resilience, prosperity and quality of life.

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Here’s a link to the full paper. It includes some interesting quotes from the interviews, and I think you’ll recognize in them many of the practices we share here at On Pasture. I certainly recognize some of the complaints! 🙂

I’m interested in your thoughts, especially if you’ve taken a look at the whole paper. Do share them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there!

Kathy

One thought on “Why Do Farmers and Ranchers Adopt Regenerative Practices?

  1. I think this sentence would scare most ranchers/farmers away, “To enhance soil health and natural carbon sinks, ranchers must not only understand the mineral cycle, i.e. how carbon cycles between the atmosphere, plants and soil via photosynthesis; but also the water cycle and what determines whether rain evaporates and runs off the soil surface or sinks in and recharges groundwater; energy flows associated with the conversion of solar energy into grass and ultimately beef; and ecological community dynamics involving ecosystem succession, relationships and interdependencies.”

    I don’t think that is true, although knowledge is helpful. I think a rancher/farmer needs to decide what mix of forages make the most sense on their soils and climate (most have a pretty good idea). Then they need to recognize that all plants need to rest (no one I know bales grasses or alfalfa every day of the summer from the same field, but waits until it has regrown). They do need to understand when plants begin to regrow and then get the livestock off. In our area, grass/legumes start in three days, so you need to size the paddock for the livestock to graze to the level that that plants can tolerate/thrive and move them. The mineral, carbon, air, water, etc. cycles can ‘figure’ this out themselves and the farmer can also figure this out as they follow some of these management fundamentals.

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