Compost and biological fertilisers can be regenerative if used in ways that improve our soil, as we use regenerative practices to improve our growing conditions. Thereby helping us realise the potential for our land to provide more support with growing food.[1]

But, as you’ll read, it’s not ideal to rely solely on inputs to regenerate our farms and gardens. 

Trapped on a Treadmill

Increasing the amount of compost, mulch and biological fertilisers we regularly apply improves our soil (see diagram below). But as only a small portion of the organic materials in these above-ground inputs are stored long term as organic matter,[2,3] we get trapped on a treadmill, having constantly to apply these inputs at these elevated levels to maintain the improvements.

And, while the microbes and other soil organisms in organic inputs, bio-fertilisers and biostimulants initially boost biological activity, they don’t survive for long without suitable living conditions.[4]

Diagram showing limited improvements inputs provideThe Downside of Relying on Inputs

It isn’t easy to imagine producing food without these inputs. We have become habituated to using them and commercial pest controls. Virtually everyone does it.

Even when we regenerate our land, it’s generally not to the extent where we can stop relying on inputs. To get to that point, we’ve got to do more than adjust the type and amounts of inputs we use. We need to use regenerative practices that help get the ecosystems in our farms and gardens functioning again (see diagram below).[1]

We have got used to growing food in dysfunctional ecosystems. Organic and biological inputs are substitutes for the free ecological services functioning ecosystems can provide.[5,6] Getting the ecosystems in our farms and gardens functioning again, we can reduce our reliance on inputs.

Diagram showing how to get the ecosystems in our farms and gardens functioning again

Relying on inputs to improve the health of our soil is like taking pills to reduce high blood pressure! Taking pills we get improved levels when we next see the doctor, but understanding why our blood pressure is high we can take steps to solve what’s impacting the functioning of our circulatory system. Regular applications of mulch and compost improve organic matter and soil carbon levels in our soil tests. But understanding why we have low levels in our soil, we take steps to improve the ability of our ecosystem to maintain desirable levels.[7]

Regenerate your land without Compost and Biological Fertilisers

Design and manage your farm and garden to get your ecosystem functioning again. Applying eco-logical principles you’ll choose effective regenerative practices that work well for your climate, soil and other growing conditions, and what you grow – veggies, fruit trees, cattle, and even alpacas![8]

Get ideas from farmers and food gardeners using traditional and innovative new practices to get their ecosystems functioning again.

Giving their soil organisms the resources to manage their soil ecosystem, they have replaced compost and biological fertilisers with root exudates and organic waste materials manufactured on-site by their plants, livestock and other living organisms.[7] The levels of organic matter and soil carbon increase because sourced from root exudates and root tissues they are retained longer in soil. [2,3]

Above-ground, Graham and Fiona Grant use this eco-logical approach to produce hydroponic lettuce. They grow plants to provide food and habitat for the predators and parasites of their insect pests. In doing so, they create beneficial relationships enabling their ecosystems to provide natural pest resistance. Read their story.

References

[1] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening? Learning from Nature

[2] Michael W. I. Schmidt, Margaret S., et al., 2011, Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property, Nature 478

[3] Daniel P. Rasse, Cornelia Rumpel & Marie-France Dignac, 2005, Is soil carbon mostly root carbon? Mechanisms for a specific stabilisation, Plant and Soil (2005) 269: pp 341–356

[4] Lavelle, P., Moreira, F. & Spain, A., 2014, Biodiversity: Conserving biodiversity in agroecosystems. In: van Alfen, N., et al., (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, Vol 2. Elsevier Publishers, San Diego, pp. 41-60.

[5] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Farming Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[6] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Gardening Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[7] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to Build Healthy Soil – Eco-logically, Learning from Nature

[8] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to choose Regenerative Practices, Learning from Nature

Get Support with reducing your Reliance on Compost and Biological Fertilisers

Suggested articles –

  1. What is Healthy Soil?
  2. How to Build Healthy Soil – Eco-logically
  3. How to reduce fertiliser Use
  4. What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening
  5. How to do Regenerative Farming and Gardening – Ecologically

Watch the videos in the playlist ‘Fix your Nutrient Cycling‘ on the Learning from Nature YouTube channel.

Develop practical solutions for your farm with this resource. Front cover Feed plants without FertilisersAnd for your garden with this resource.

Front cover Feed your Plants without FertilisersAny questions or thoughts you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you – info[at]learningfromnature.com.au

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