Study aligns regenerative farming with human health benefits

A Chicago-based group with ties to central Illinois set up to promote “regenerative” organic agriculture has released a new study showing a link between regenerative farming, soil health and human health.

Basil’s Harvest was founded in 2019 by Erin Meyers, a Farmington native who raised her family on a farm in Brimfield. Meyers used to own an organic restaurant in Elmwood– also called Basil’s Harvest– and is currently aligned with HEAL, which provides home health care and tele-health options for Illinois residents. As a registered dietitian, Meyers also worked with OSF Healthcare on a farm-to-hospital food initiative.

The study of Basil Harvest, while largely technical in nature, breaks down what modern science has known to farmers for decades: Healthy soil produces healthy foods, and the key to healthy soil is maintaining farm soil organic matter (SOM). or lies in increasing.

“Soils managed through the use of reduced tillage and diverse cover cropping strategies, such as including legumes combined with a small grain (i.e., winter wheat), have the potential to increase both soil organic matter and plant-available nitrogen pools.” more likely,” according to a six-page summary of the study.

In layman’s terms, Meyers & Basile’s Harvest believes that the health of the soil in a community is linked to the health of the people in the community. The group’s new study shows that adopting regenerative agriculture practices and climate-smart agriculture can benefit human health, animal welfare, the environment and farm incomes while providing systemic change.

Bacillus Harvest claims that when community institutions such as hospitals, schools and food banks direct their purchasing power to prioritize soil health, the overall health of the community improves. To this end, Basil’s Harvest works with community leaders to drive innovation, education and build regional value chains that support regenerative food systems and community health.

“We work to create ecosystems– we are strategic partners to advance farm-to-institution initiatives in food systems, farms, institutions and health care,” Meyers said in a recent interview with WGLT-WCBU. And allies call to foster partnerships.” “We also empower new leadership through research and experiential training.”

Regenerative Farming 101

The concept of regenerative farming, while not new, is gaining renewed traction due to climate-smart farming funded through the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act, as well as with the emergence of carbon sequestration programs offered to growers that Document your soil health management. According to The Climate Reality Project, regenerative farming is an agricultural technique that essentially focuses more on soil health than other types of agriculture.

Karl Rozier, consultant soil scientist for Bacillus Harvest, said there are four ways farmers can practice regenerative agriculture to sequester SOM and carbon in their crop fields. At the top of the list is cover cropping, which involves the planting of an overwintering crop after a fall harvest to increase the retention of valuable soil nutrients.

“No-till and cover cropping, with compost and leaving as much biomass (corn stover and soybean stubble) on the ground as possible are examples of soil building (and regenerative agriculture),” Rozier said. “Next, you must be chemical-free so there are no pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. You are also working to enhance animal welfare and the ethical treatment of animals. The fourth principle relates to fair labor.”

Rotating corn and soybean crops annually can help increase SOM, while incorporating livestock into row crop farm operations can reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers by providing a ready source of nutrient-rich manure, Meyers said. Reducing it may help.

Why farmers should adopt regenerative agriculture now

With more major US and international corporations demanding traceability in their food products and emerging agricultural carbon sequestration programs already starting to produce payoffs for farmers, there is an opportunity to adopt at least some regenerative agriculture practices. The alternative is being made by more and more growers right here in central Illinois. – Especially those with organic or specialty cropping operations.

According to Rosier, who serves as a soil microbial biologist for Agroecology Solutions in Delaware, understanding the effects of climate change on North American crop production and reducing supply chain dependence will lead climate-smart farmers to preserve their soils and doing more.

“In an era of climate change, we are facing more severe weather events, from drought to rain, and along with supply chain challenges, we have seen the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rail strike– With avian flu– it has been very challenging for farmers to get liquid nitrogen fertilizer. We have also seen a dramatic increase in nitrogen fertilizer (prices) since the unrest in Europe,” he said, adding that the availability of fresh fertilizers has also been reduced due to the loss of millions of chickens due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Which poultry farmers can use as fertilizer or sell to other farmers.

“You may face a reduced ability to get nitrogen fertilizer in the near future. If you have soil with high organic matter, you’ll get a boost of about 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre, we calculated. If you plant a legume in (cover crops) you’ll get an extra boost of about 30 pounds. Then you’re on your way to not needing as much (synthetic fertilizer),” said Rozier.

Anatomy of a Report

Basil’s Harvest partnered with Agroecology Solutions, the Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center, and the Bionutrient Institute to measure the ecological impacts of regenerative agriculture, examining the relationship between farm, food and health systems. The study assessed SOM and plant-available nitrogen (PAN) dynamics at Jennie’s Farm, a 25-year organic operation in Danforth, Jennie’s Farm 2 (15 years organic), Cow Creek Organics Farm in Paxton (2 years organic) and Jennie’s Farm – Cullam Fields, which was in its first year of conversion to organic. The goal of the research was to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between agricultural management practices and important soil characteristics needed for crop productivity.

“As we consider ways to improve soil through organic management, this study measured PAN and explored, ‘how to maintain PAN while eliminating commercial nitrogen fertilizer in organic production while improving SOM. May go?” Report good. “In our study, we observed significantly higher nitrate concentrations in both 25- and 15-year-old organic farm soils (Figure 3b). Several studies suggest that legume cover-crop combinations combined with a small grain The use of animal manure, and less tillage increase the nitrate content in the soil.

The study concluded that the 25-year farm maintained the highest concentrations of both SOM and PAN, possibly due to reduced tillage, diverse crop rotations and the use of leguminous cover-crops. It was also found that SOM concentrations greater than five percent can provide more than 50 pounds of PAN through microbial mineralization.

According to the study’s authors, “The next step for our research is to look at how agricultural management practices affect soil health and the nutrient density of crops, and how consumption of food grown with these methods can have a positive impact on human health.” , to dive deeper into the relationship between

“Our future directions aim to translate the cumulative data into a useful tool for farmers as they consider transitioning from conventional to organic agricultural management practices. By fostering sustainable change in our regional food systems, we will ultimately aim for a more Promoting healthy, equitable and resilient food systems that link the health of people, farms and soils.

A link to the Bacillus Harvest regenerative farming study can be found at: For more information on basil harvest, visit

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