How farmers can cut ties with synthetic fertilisers

Blog post 11 – manuel troya-featured image
8 Aug, 2023
— Arlene Barclay

The cost of inputs widely used in agriculture has skyrocketed.

Since 2020, the World Bank estimates that fertiliser prices have increased by 80%.

From leaving farmers strapped for cash to risking reduced yields, the effect is surging through every part of the food chain.

A growing movement of farmers is turning this challenge into an opportunity. Through regenerative agriculture, you can dramatically reduce your input costs and reliance on synthetic fertilisers, all while rebuilding the soil.

In this blog, we’ll explore the risk posed by increasing fertiliser costs, regenerative agriculture’s role in mitigating it, and the results of farmers implementing it.

THE INCREASING COST OF AGRICULTURAL INPUTS

The invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and climate breakdown have collectively shaken the agricultural sector to its core.

Since 2020, the “three F’s” – fertiliser, animal feed and fuel – have all shot up in price.

Russia and Belarus are two major exporters of artificial fertilisers. Having been put under trade sanctions, availability has declined drastically.

Synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilisers play a major role in many modern farming systems. One break in the chain risks huge knock-on effects for farmers’ yields, income, and livelihoods.

REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE: AN EMERGING SOLUTION

It’s no secret that the emergence of artificial inputs reshaped agriculture.

However, these same inputs have had a huge impact on ecosystems, reducing soil fertility and function, polluting waterways and threatening biodiversity. As a result, the land farmers inherently depend on is slowly but steadily depleting.

Through regenerative agriculture, farmers can reverse this trend.

Regenerative management is an approach to farming that seeks to restore agri-ecosystems. It places a heavy premium on soil health, while sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere, increasing farm biodiversity and improving water management in the process.

One of the most promising aspects of regenerative agriculture is that it nurtures diverse, active soil biology that supplies adequate plant nutrition.

The approach removes chemical inputs, instead opting for a diverse suite of practices tailored to the unique conditions at play on the farm.

The recent drive to mitigate the effects of climate change means farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture can access financial support for their efforts.

Fertiliser is a major emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing or removing it from your farm system, you can generate Carbon+ Credits.

HOW IT WORKS ON THE FIELD

Manuel Troya’s farm, Pajaretillo

Manuel Troya’s farm, Pajaretillo

As a systems approach, the first step in regenerative agriculture is building healthy soil that’s booming with biological life. Over time, crops grown in high-functioning soils require less intervention, allowing farmers to eliminate fertiliser use.

But how does this look in the real-world? Manuel Troya is the manager of Pajaretillo, a livestock farm in Sierra Cádiz, Spain. He’s transitioning his farm to regenerative agriculture through our Carbon+ Program.

According to Manuel, his input costs have decreased by 20% since he cut ties with chemical fertilisers. The results go beyond his wallet, too. Biodiversity has increased, his soil is healthier and he has more access to water.

Manuel attributes his success to the impact of holistic management. As he puts it:

“The most effective fertiliser isn’t chemical based. It’s soil rest and animal impact.”

Frank Glorie, the manager of GAEC Nolaine in France, similarly echoes the message. His regenerative operation has never used artificial fertilisers or pesticides. Instead, his farm has maintained high productivity through a diverse suite of practices.

“Farms don’t need fertiliser. They need stimuli to make free nutrients from the ground available for use. If done in the right way, it’s highly cost-effective”


— Frank Glorie

THE CHALLENGE

Cutting out fertiliser doesn’t happen overnight. If you suddenly switch from one system to another, you run the risk of reduced yields and income.

As Ashish Kaour, a farmer transitioning to regenerative agriculture, highlights, it’s a big change. “Parallel farming is a must until your finances are stable”.

While it has been shown that regenerative agriculture can increase profits by up to 60%, farmers must first undergo a transition period.

The initial drop in the land’s productivity and associated costs during the transition is without doubt a challenge. But through our Carbon+ Program, you can access financial support as you make the change.

Do you want support for implementing regenerative agriculture?

CLOSING REMARKS

Farmers are highly skilled in adaptation. And although the transition to regenerative agriculture requires a new, unfamiliar kind of adaptation, it’s undeniably worth the reward.

Cutting ties with chemical fertilisers doesn’t happen overnight. But by making the change now, you’ll be significantly better positioned down the line.