Agriculture is a key export industry for Australia, the heart of many rural communities, and a significant source of employment.
But covering more than half of Australia’s land mass, agriculture is also the main cause of human-induced land clearing and a driver of land degradation – and accounts for 16 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Agriculture is also highly affected by the changing climate, as drought intensity and flood risk increase. However, agricultural systems can and must be part of the solution to climate change, by lowering land-based emissions and increasing how much carbon is stored in the land.
This means there is a growing need for agricultural models that can better meet the interlinked challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and food security.
By working within a range of other nature-based solutions, regenerative agriculture offers one approach to more sustainable agriculture.
This discussion paper explores the potential for regenerative agriculture to contribute to positive sustainability outcomes in Australia. Our paper finds that regenerative agriculture can achieve multiple benefits, including improving resilience, soil health and biodiversity. It also has the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation.
However, the extent of these benefits varies significantly depending on the practice and context. Regenerative agriculture can’t be relied on as the only solution to the challenges facing our food and agricultural system. Broader transformations across the system are needed to balance the competing pressures on land to meet climate and other sustainability targets, while meeting growing demand for food and fibre.
To ensure regenerative agriculture practices are appropriately considered and are scalable to support more sustainable land use in Australia, we propose two main areas for action:
- Strengthening evidence, knowledge and practice to support more sustainable agriculture
- Promoting broader shifts in the food and agricultural system to enable and support more sustainable land use.