Soil degradation has reached global proportions and threatens the world's food security. According to the UN, up to 40% of the world's land is degraded. The main reason is excessive mechanical tillage, which destroys soil structure, accelerates erosion and loss of fertility.

Currently, one of the most effective solutions for stabilizing and regenerating degraded land is no-till technology, which involves the complete abandonment of tillage. This system of farming provides farmers with economic benefits and allows them to effectively protect the soil from degradation, in particular, to stop erosion, preserve moisture and organic matter.

However, based on my own and global experience of implementing no-till farming, I can draw the following conclusion: Protecting the soil from erosion and restoring its fertility is already a minimum program when switching to no-till for farmers in different countries.

And if the main argument for them in switching to no-till is economic benefits, the next task in mastering no-till technology is to improve soil quality (maximum program).

It is obvious that conventional no-till is often insufficient to fully regenerate soil properties and improve soil fertility. A more comprehensive approach is needed to achieve a sustainable regenerative effect.

And when farmers add certain regenerative elements to their no-till system, they also add them to the name of their technology. In the case of cover crops, you can often find the following name: no-till + cover crops.

I think it is not quite convenient to add certain used elements to the name of the technology, because those who will use all possible tools on the way to soil regeneration will have to have a very long name with many pluses.

Therefore, I believe it is necessary to offer a more comprehensive vision of no-till as a system that will not only restore the properties and fertility of degraded soils, but also improve the quality of any soil. I propose to describe this vision with the term No-till PRO.

In the name of this term, the abbreviation "PRO" indicates a more advanced, professional level that involves the use of regenerative practices.

The name No-till PRO reflects a new stage in the development of agriculture, where farmers are moving from basic no-till to a higher level of professionalism that contributes to both the preservation and active restoration of soil fertility. It is No-till PRO that has the greatest potential to transform agriculture into a truly regenerative one.

The No-till PRO approach focuses on restoring natural soil fertility by stimulating beneficial microbiota, as microorganisms play a key role in shaping soil fertility. To increase fertility, it is important to create optimal conditions for the development of soil microflora. 

No-till PRO includes a wide range of tools designed to increase the number and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the soil:

1.      Extended crop rotations: Extended crop rotations help maintain the balance of nutrients in the soil and prevent soil depletion. A variety of organic matter from root and post-harvest residues helps to activate beneficial microorganisms, which maintains optimal microbiological activity in the soil and its health.

2.      Cover crops: The use of cover crops allows you to constantly have green plants and living roots on the field, which contributes to the accumulation of organic matter in the topsoil, enriching it and contributing to the increase of microbial biodiversity in the soil.

3.      Integration of animals into the no-till system: Grazing livestock or poultry in the fields helps to saturate the soil with organic matter, activates the microflora and increases biodiversity. This practice helps to inoculate the soil with beneficial microorganisms and bacteria, improving its health and fertility.

4.      Organic fertilizers: They contain a large number of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that contribute to soil health. When organic fertilizers are applied to the soil, these microorganisms begin the process of decomposing organic matter and converting it into nutrients available to plants.

5.      Microbiological preparations: Modern microbiological preparations contain live cultures of beneficial microorganisms, such as nitrogen fixers, phosphate mobilizers and pathogen antagonists. They stimulate the development of the natural microflora of the soil, improving its fertility and reducing the need for chemicals.

All in all, all these tools in the No-till PRO system provide optimal conditions for plant growth and development, and contribute to soil regeneration by preserving its fertility, improving its structure and biological activity.

The more these tools are used by farmers, the more effective the soil regeneration process becomes.

The No-till PRO system is a truly regenerative approach to farming due to the following key advantages:

  • No soil loss: No tillage helps to keep the soil in place, preventing erosion by wind and water.
  • Preservation of soil cover: With no-till, crop residue remains on the soil surface, creating a natural cover that protects against erosion and retains moisture.
  • Biodiversity conservation: The use of cover crops and the absence of mechanical tillage create a favorable environment for a variety of microorganisms, ensuring the preservation of biodiversity.
  • Improved soil structure: Extended crop rotations and cover crops contribute to the formation of a rich root layer, improving soil structure and water permeability.
  • Integration of animals: Grazing animals on fields helps to utilize organic residues and contributes to biodiversity.
  • Increasing yields: The long-term practice of no-till improves soil fertility, which is reflected in crop yields.
  • Saving time and money: No-till farming saves time, fuel, and money.
  • Reduced use of chemicals: The use of cover crops, organic fertilizers and microbiological preparations helps to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Stability in yields: No-till creates sustainable conditions for plant growth, which contributes to stable yields.
  • Reducing carbon emissions: No tillage helps to preserve carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Thus, the integrated No-till PRO approach is a sustainable regenerative farming system that combines economic and environmental benefits.

Although many farmers now call their activities regenerative agriculture, in practice they often use technologies with partial tillage. This may be a step in the right direction, but it is not enough for true regeneration.

After all, any mechanical tillage disrupts the soil structure and leads to the loss of organic matter. Therefore, the complete abandonment of tillage is a prerequisite for a regenerative approach.

Regenerative agriculture should comprehensively restore fertility with the help of extended crop rotations, cover crops, organic matter, and microbiology. Only the combination of no-till with these practices provides a full regenerative effect.

Therefore, the term "regenerative agriculture" should only be applied to systems that completely eliminate tillage and use a comprehensive approach to restoring soil fertility and ecosystems. It is this approach, such as No-till PRO, that is true Regenerative Agriculture.

Soil degradation is a global problem that threatens the food security of the world. To solve it, we need to switch to regenerative farming practices. Experience shows that only an integrated approach based on no-till principles provides a sustainable regenerative effect.

That is why the No-till PRO concept offers a systematic vision of restoring fertility by stimulating soil life. The combination of the no-till principles with active biologization and fertility restoration makes it a true regenerative system.

I urge agricultural producers to switch to No-till PRO — this is the way to sustainable agriculture of the future with healthy living soils. Together we will change the attitude to the land for the better! Let's nurture fertile soils, and they will bring us bountiful harvests. The introduction of No-till PRO is an investment in the future of our fields and the planet.

Mykhaylo Draganchuk is a no-tiller from Ukraine who attended the 2024 National No-Tillage Conference in Indianapolis, Ind. 

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