Editorial August 2019

This edition focuses on regenerative farming and how the term has accelerated in popularity since the publication of Charles Massy’s book “The call of the Reed Warbler”. Being down-graded or replaced is the term sustainable which is gradually finding its place in the dustbin of history.
Inside that dustbin are many other terms such as the Green Revolution which featured in the 1970s – 1990s which centred on adding chemicals to improve productivity. Sustainable, though, was a term that was centre stage in the 1990s, and beyond, and is still centre stage today although its influence is waning.

Emerging and beginning to take over is the term regenerative, which in a sense, takes us back to a period before the emergence of the Green Revolution. The conversation in this new ‘Anthropocene epoch’ is not about chemicals and increased productivity but about natural farming and the evidence that productivity can be as high if not as high as with chemical farming. The terms that are bandied about include self-organisation, natural systems, building soil carbon, mulching vegetation, building soil organisms – terms that have been around for ages but have been added to with new knowledge such as the concept of self-organisation. Self-organisation is more at home in a physics or biology text book than in a paddock growing pastures, but self-organisation can be explained in terms of the behaviour of a cell or indeed in terms of the behaviour of the planet Earth. The term used in the latter instance is GAIA, a term coined by British scientist James Lovelock to explain the Earth as a living self-organising system. In other words, Earth isn’t a mechanical device without linkages between its parts but a living entity that creates its own environment and does so through a self-organising mechanism.

One term that accompanies the term self-organisation is emergence, that is, the outcomes associated with a self-organising system. The easiest way to think of emergence is the equation 2 + 2 = 10. In other words what emerges from a system is greater than the sum of the parts. This emergence element doesn’t feature in conventional or reductionist science since each component is treated separately and the knowledge of systems doesn’t apply. In this instance 2+2 = 3.

It is this emergence that we identify with when a system becomes whole and the parts connect to create the whole and where what emerges cannot be defined by the inputs into that system. Sounds convoluted but this relationship will soon be understood as central to Regenerative Agriculture and will represent the beginning of a new phase of agriculture around Australia and the world.

Kerry Cochrane (Editor)

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