People need to "wake up" and realise regenerative agriculture is "just nonsense", says Dr Doug Edmeades.

In fact, the Hamilton-based soil scientist is so concerned about regenerative agriculture that he is launching a speaking tour this week to warn Southland farmers about the practice.

"This matter needs to be debated and discussed, at the moment farmers are only hearing one side of it, such is the political nature of this RA thing," Edmeades told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

Regenerative agriculture (RA) is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems, focusing on topsoil regeneration and increasing biodiversity.


There are vocal champions and opponents of regenerative agriculture, and Edmeades believed the champions were getting their message heard due politics rather than science.

Dr Doug Edmeades. Photo / Supplied
Dr Doug Edmeades. Photo / Supplied

"I will be talking about the scientific side of regenerative agriculture tomorrow as part of my message to, not just Southland, but South Island farmers collectively."

Edmeades believed he was already on the back foot with his message, as Government funding into RA meant "the horse had bolted".

"I understand this project has been given a whole dollop of Government money to go and find out what the science is behind RA – and I can tell them that for $50 – there's no science behind it at all."

In fact, Kiwi farmers were already practising some of the principles of regenerative agriculture, Edmeades said.

"Keeping soils covered, rotation of grazing – for heaven's sake – we've been doing that for years. Where regenerative agriculture tries to make a difference, they talk about soil quality as if no one has ever talked about soil quality in their lives."

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The perception that conventional farming was "degenerative" was also incorrect, according to Edmeades.

"There's a lot of porkies in this area ... I've got data to show that the organic matter levels haven't declined in the last 10 years both in New Zealand and in the Waikato."


Also, once organic matter had reached an equilibrium in the soil, (after a build up of "over 20, 30, 40 years"), "you can't add more ...because of the way the biological system works," Edmeades said.

Conventional farmers were already adding matter to the soil and Edmeades said he had an example to back up his claim.

"If you've grown 10 tonnes of dry matter per hectare ... and utilising it say at 80 per cent – that's 2 tonnes of residue going back into the soil. So at over 100 hectares per farm – that's 200 tonnes of organic matter, call it compost, going back into the soil."

"We're already doing all that stuff."