Regenerative agriculture is attracting a lot of attention as an approach to fix our food system through restoring soil health and reversing biodiversity loss through a combination of sustainable intensification and agroecology. This is often linked to targets for net zero carbon emissions, but to be a viable option there needs to be broader consideration in terms of agronomic sustainability and local contexts. Whilst common practices under the banner of regenerative agriculture have been around for a long time within good agricultural management, what is missing is direct evidence of the benefits to soil health across different local contexts, meaningful indicators and assessment of trade-offs to help inform decision making.
This project will assess soil nutrient budgets, soil structure, soil organic matter content and establish links to microbial diversity across a range of practices that fall under the banner of regenerative agriculture including agronomic practices integral to conventional and organic farming, conservation agriculture, agroforestry and permaculture. Comparisons will be made across farms that are adopters of practices, those in transition, and non-adopters. Measured indicators will be related to projected crop yields and soil carbon accrual through modelling of relationships under different practices and under different local contexts (e.g. soil, climate, cropping system, socioeconomics) to provide a framework for decision support.
The student will receive training in a broad range of soil physical, chemical and biological sampling and analyses, and modelling approaches, as well as more generic training for career development.