Dec 17 , 2019
Do you own a farm? Do you homestead? Did you know that regenerative agriculture could help the bee population? Paul Kernaleguen says regenerative agriculture has brought bees back to his farm. “With the flowering species [of plants] we have now, you definitely see more,” he said. What is regenerative agriculture? It is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. It aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities. The system draws from decades of scientific and applied research by the global communities of organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, and agroforestry.
Paul Kernaleguen’s story continues. He refers to the mixture of plants in his fields, near Birch Hills, Saskatchewan, Canada. Along with his partner, Erin Dancey, he now grows flowers like red clover, phacelia and sunflowers, along with barley, oats and peas they grow to feed their dairy cattle. They manage their fields with regenerative agriculture. They said the practice has brought greater profits, efficiency, and a higher bee population. The mixture of different crops, which bloom at different times and grow at different rates, replenishes the nutrients and bacteria necessary for the soil to be fertile, and the variety of flowers have encouraged the bees to repopulate.
Kernaleguen didn’t switch to regenerative agriculture because he wanted more bees. He did it because, six years ago, he was worried about feeding his cattle. “We were in some wet years,” Kernaleguen said, “What we were growing—barley and oats—kept drowning. [So we] got the idea to try something else.” He attributes the better water management in the soil now to having more active root systems in the soil, and having cover crops—like alfalfa or clover—that are grown for the enrichment of the soil. Some cover crops are grown all year long.
Dancey, who moved to the farm three years ago, says that mixing the crops in the field has allowed them to harvest the mixed rations they need to feed their cattle. She estimates it now “takes probably a third of the time to get the feed in front of the cows.” She says the new method has also made the farm more money. “When you get higher quality feed to the animal then that obviously comes through in the milk side of it,” she said.
Kernaleguen said that the cows now produce fewer liters of milk, but that the farm is making more money because Canadian dairy farms are paid for the kilograms of butterfat that they harvest. “We feel our cows are healthier [and that] they breed back better [and they] produce a lot more butterfat, butter protein, and milk protein,” he said.
Regenerative agriculture produces healthier soil, stops soil depletion, and helps with sustainability, as well as bringing back the bees.