Image Credit: Jim Richardson/National Geographic Creative

FOOD

REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

75.5% of Lancaster’s 439,481 acres of farmland (331,808 acres) are composed of croplands, making Lancaster a great candidate for implementing farming-based solutions.1 The conventional practices of tilling land strip soils of their natural fertility, creating a need for artificial fertilizers that can disturb nearby ecosystems. Regenerative agriculture focuses on restoring soil health through mimicking natural processes: halting the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, introducing cover cropping, and stopping or limiting tilling.2, 4, 6 The resulting carbon-rich soils not only sequester carbon but also produce healthier, stronger crops and greater cash crop yields. Implementing regenerative agriculture in farmland spaces could greatly improve soil quality, reduce carbon emissions and pollution, and increase productivity in Lancaster County.

What We Know

Lancaster data on acres of farmland and their usage is readily available through the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Drawdown estimates 4 for GHG savings (.24 tons of carbon per acre), costs ($84.32 per acre), and savings (1.726 x greater profits than conventional farming) were scaled down to the acreage of Lancaster county cropland (331,808 acres)1 for rough estimates of Lancaster data.

What We Don't Know

Data on what farming practices the farms in Lancaster County currently use is not readily available and would be helpful to our GHG savings, costs and savings estimates.

What We Assumed

We calculated estimates both for the assumption that all cropland (331,808 acres)1 would transition to regenerative agriculture, and also for the Drawdown scenario estimate that 62% 4 (205,720 acres) of farmland will adopt this practice.

Local Resources

         The Rodale Institute farm in Kutztown, PA has 333 acres of formerly degraded farmland dedicated to regenerative agriculture. Along with a group of other scientists, they created a framework for regenerative organic certification. Their certification process includes a number of agricultural practices, from soil health and humane animal caretaking, to fair farmer and worker interactions. They also started a side by side comparison of farming systems in 1981 between organic grain farming practices and conventional practices. They found that organic farming practices have 3-6x greater yields, release 40% less emissions, and use 45% less energy than conventional farming.6

         “The Farming Systems Trial is located on 12 acres at our main campus in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It is divided into 3 overarching systems: organic manure, organic legume, and conventional. Each system is further divided into two: tillage and no-till, for a total of 6 systems. There are a total of 72 experimental plots. A note on tillage: No-till and organic no-till are not created equal. Conventional no-till utilizes herbicides to terminate a cover crop, whereas organic systems use tools like the roller crimper. We have found that organic no-till practices year after year do not yield optimal results, so our organic systems utilize reduced tillage and the ground is plowed only in alternating years .” – quoted from the Rodale Institute Website 6

Global Examples

There are a host of different organizations across the globe that are promoting regenerative agriculture. A comprehensive list can be found at https://foodtank.com/news/2018/05/organizations-feeding-healing-world-regenerative-agriculture-2/.

Resources

Sources

1 2012 Census of Agriculture: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania” U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2012/Online_Resources/County_Profiles/Pennsylvania/cp42071.pdf

2 “Framework for Regenerative Organic Certification” Regenerative Organic Certified. April 2019. 

https://regenorganic.org/pdf/ROC-Framework.pdf

3 Polito, Rick. “The Road to Natural: A tale of three farms” New Hope Network. Sept. 11, 2018.

https://www.newhope.com/manufacturing-and-supply/road-natural-tale-three-farms

4 “Regenerative Agriculture” Project Drawdown.

https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/food/regenerative-agriculture

5 “Regeneration International Agriculture Reports” Regeneration International.

https://regenerationinternational.org/category/report-agriculture/

6 “Regenerative Organic Agriculture” Rodale Institute.

https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/organic-basics/regenerative-organic-agriculture/

 

Lancaster Research Drive

Coming Soon!

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RANK AND RESULTS – COMING SOON

 

TONS OF CARBON PER YEAR 

 

IMPLEMENTATION COST

 

PROFITS 

 

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