What is regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture (RA) is an outcome-based food production system that nurtures and restores soil health, protects the climate and water resources and biodiversity, and enhances farms' productivity and profitability. It comprises a range of techniques, supported by innovative technologies, which can combat the challenges cause by climate change by restoring the health of soil and protecting the land’s ecosystem. 

Regenerative agriculture is an evolution of conventional agriculture, reducing the use of water and other inputs, and preventing land degradation and deforestation. It protects and improves soil, biodiversity, climate resilience and water resources while making farming more productive and profitable.

Regenerative Agriculture – Where Innovation Meets Tradition

What are the principles and practices behind regenerative agriculture?

The agricultural sector needs to transform, and regenerative agriculture can enable this transition through building up soil organic matter and nurturing its health. But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution – instead, each unique context requires a different set of farming approaches to maximize productivity while restoring soils and biodiversity. Different regenerative practices suit different regions or even individual farms depending on the conditions, although they are underlain by a common set of principles.

Minimize soil disturbance

  • Principle: Minimizing soil disturbance benefits the soil and the climate 
  • Practice: No-till or reduced-till techniques 

When soil is plowed or tilled, it’s structure is damaged, leaving it vulnerable to wind and water erosion and microbial decomposition. Tilling lessens the soil’s ability to retain water, devastating crops during increasingly frequent droughts. Farmers practicing regenerative agriculture greatly reduce or stop tillage and instead plant seeds directly into the residue of the previous crop. With this, the soil contains more organic matter and is less prone to being blown away by wind or washed away by water.

Farmer's perspectives

Dry Land Gets New Life

Can a pioneering farming family really combat climate change with regenerative agriculture?

Can Regenerative Agriculture Feed the World?

Modern agriculture has done a remarkable job of feeding the 7.9 billion world population. Yet with the global population projected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050, agriculture faces increasing challenges from degraded land, unprecedented weather extremes, new pests and blights migrating from other parts of the world and diminishing water resources.

What is Syngenta Group doing to Advance Regenerative Agriculture?

As a science-based company, Syngenta Group drives innovation that enables farmers to adopt regenerative practices across the world. We develop technology that can help farmers apply regenerative practices, and research the best ways of applying regenerative agriculture in the field.

Syngenta Group technology focus 

  • Crop protection products – insecticides, fungicides and herbicides – that require smaller amounts of product, are more effective, and are environmentally friendly 
  • More productive seeds, adapted to the changing climate and to overcome resistant pests and diseases 
  • Biological products – biocontrols, biofertilizers, and biostimulants 
  • Comprehensive digital solutions to improve yields and profitability through precise crop protection and seeding prescriptions. 

Examples of Syngenta Group breakthrough innovations 

  • The iStem® cauliflower, bred to make the whole cauliflower edible and so cut food waste 
  • ArtesianTM corn, which is tolerant to drought and enables high yields even in the extreme heat we see more frequently 
  • Cropwise, a new digital tool that helps farmers get the latest and best advice on how to grow their crops most sustainably.
Farmer's perspectives

How Regenerative Agriculture Thrives at Moreland Farms

Since Moreland Farms began transitioning to no-till farming and constant crop rotation in 1996, there have been consistent yield increases and other environmental and economic benefits.

What are the Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture for Farmers, the Environment, and Consumers?

Regenerative agriculture has the potential to make farming a solution to climate change, which benefits the planet, humanity and all other life on it. Within that, there are many tangible benefits. Some examples:

For farmers

Regenerative agriculture practices, when customized to individual farms’ needs, have potential to increase the income of farmers and the profitability of farms. 

As one example, research from intensive corn and soybean farms in the US shows that adopting soil health management systems increased net farm income by an average of $52/acre for corn and $45/acre for soybeans. Management practices included conservation tillage, cover crops, and precision fertilizer management. 97% of surveyed growers reported increased resilience to extreme weather such as drought and heavy rain.

For the environment

Limiting deforestation and grassland conversion

Regenerative agriculture practices help restore degraded farmland through improving soil health. This can lead to increased yields from existing arable land, preventing the need for farms to expand and cause deforestation as they do so. 

In Brazil’s Cerrado, regenerative agriculture practices such as minimum tillage and planting cover crops have been shown to increase soil organic matter. Along with proper management of soil health, this is enabling the profitable restoration of unproductive, degraded pastures. The result: with 1 head of cattle per ha to cropland producing 3-4.5 t of soybeans, 3-6t of corn, and beef cattle grazing on cover crops all in one year.

Enhancing biodiversity

One of the goals of regenerative agriculture is to restore threatened biodiversity and enhance natural habitats. Regenerative agriculture practices such as planting field strips provide habitats for many types of biodiversity from pollinators to birds and small mammals, allowing them to thrive. Practices such as no-till improve soil health, nourishing underground microorganisms and increasing the diversity of creatures living below the surface.

Optimizing inputs

One of the principles of regenerative agriculture is reducing biological and chemical inputs. Digital tools allow farmers to better understand their fields and crops and target applications of products, so reducing the amounts used

For consumers

One of the aims of regenerative agriculture is to ensure enough nutritious food for everyone, giving consumers greater food security and improved health. Regenerative practices lead to a more resilient food system, which decreases the risk of empty shelves arising from climate impacts on food production. As soil health improves, the microorganisms that live in soil help plants access micronutrients and produce phytochemicals that are linked to disease prevention and longer lifespans.

Farmer's perspectives

A Trailblazer Who Is Rebuilding The Soil

Hans-Heinrich Grünhagen is a multi-faceted farmer, both a traditionalist and a trailblazer. Climate changes are intensifying the problems and there is an intense focus on soil. That means a lot of experimentation with regenerative agricultural practices.

What is Needed to Accelerate the Transition to Regenerative Agriculture?

More investment is needed to accelerate the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture practices, and farmers, policymakers and agricultural companies need to work together. 

Today, farmers carry a heavy burden of costs – seeds, equipment, overheads, for example - and take much of the risk of growing food crops despite uncertainty about weather, water and market prices. Changing farm practices brings greater costs at the start. Despite that, larger farms and progressive growers are forging ahead. 

The transition can’t be left to farmers alone, and governments need to support them by rethinking existing farming policies to make regenerative agriculture economically attractive. Subsidies can be restructured to incentivize farmers to phase out soil-degrading practices in favor of approaches that build healthy, fertile soil while sequestering carbon. 

The private sector also has an important role. Companies including Syngenta Group can take a lead by delivering a set of starter regenerative solutions that generate measurable results for farmers within one growing season. At Syngenta Group, we engage farmers by working closely alongside them. We do this both in the field – by bringing them knowledge and tools - and off the land – for example, by helping integrate farmers into the food supply chain via partnerships and collaborations.

Our Stories

Leading the conversation on sustainable operations

On Syngenta Group’s production site at Monthey, Switzerland, Alexandra Brand and Petra Laux discuss sustainable operations and a journey toward more resilient relationship with our environment.

Progressive Indian grower and innovative tomato variety are winning combination

Sahu began as a grain farmer in 2007, but unpredictable weather conditions eventually forced him to rethink his crop selection. Today, across 300 acres of land, Sahu’s tomatoes are flourishing. 

Jeff Rowe farms
Spring planting starts earlier, goes faster and yields better results with today’s agricultural innovations

Syngenta Group tailors its agricultural products and solutions to local growers worldwide — including the family farm of its CEO Jeff Rowe.