Regenerative farm research has global interest

The Ecdysis Foundation, led by Jonathan Lundgren, launched the 1,000 Farms initiative earlier this year with the goal of conducting a long-term intensive study of farming practices on farms across the country.

The idea is to analyze the benefits of switching to regenerative agricultural practices.

Regenerative Ag study: A deep dive into 1,000 farms

The South Dakota-based nonprofit hoped to register 350 farms in its first year, but interest exceeded expectations.

“We actually have farmers from all over the world registering for this study. Africa, all of Europe, Australia, South and Central America. In the end, more than 1000 farms registered to take part in the study,” said Lundgren.

The project still focuses on farms in 10 ecoregions in the United States.

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“This year, our scientists visited 389 farms across the United States,” Lundgren said. “That is logistically very demanding. And the fact that we already have almost all of the data in databases and can release them within weeks of the end of the field season is quite remarkable. Therefore, this experimental framework will be extremely useful on a global scale.”

Jonathan Lundgren, Director/CEO of Blue Dasher Farm.

Jonathan Lundgren, director/CEO of Blue Dasher Farm, photographed Oct. 22 in the farm’s research lab, where Lundgren and his collaborators develop and evaluate agricultural management practices to increase biodiversity in crop and animal production through an approach called regenerative agriculture.

Dan Koeck for MPR News | 2018

The farms have undergone intensive data collection this year, creating a huge database of everything from biodiversity to soil composition to the nutrition of the crops harvested.

Lundgren said the data confirms some benefits of regenerative practices, but could also challenge some common beliefs.

An $800,000 year-long grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, announced at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, will help expand the project globally.

“Your grant is intended to help globalize this initiative, how can we apply what we learn from North America to the planet,” Lundgren said.

The grant will enable the creation of an internship program for farmers of color and scientists to ensure diversity within the course. It will also contribute data to a project to track the nutrition of plants around the world.

Lundgren expects to expand regenerative research efforts “one continent at a time.”

He expects to study another 500 farms over the next year and expand the effort to the U.S. Southeast and Great Lakes region. He plans to publish the first results of the multi-year study early next year.