GRDC Code: SCU2307-001RTX
Regenerative Agriculture: understanding the intent, practices, the benefits and disbenefits.
Despite becoming more common in agricultural conversations, there is no regulatory, widely accepted nor regularly used definition of regenerative agriculture in Australia. Available definitions of regenerative agriculture are based around adoption of specific farming practices, outcomes or principles. As implementation and adoption of practices on farm depends on many factors, a representative regenerative agriculture farming system can range within a diverse type of farming systems, going from the conventional low-input cropping farms to a complete biodynamic one.

Proponents of regenerative agriculture argue from an agroecological perspective which contends that system performance can be improved by greater consideration of natural ecological processes, regarded as largely lost in modern agricultural practices. In the Australian context, regenerative agriculture is largely driven by the beliefs of early adopters that the agricultural landscape will benefit by reducing the expense of external inputs (mineral fertiliser and chemicals). A main incentive for interest in regenerative agriculture is lower input costs alongside a means to increase soil carbon, lower greenhouse gas emissions, arrest biodiversity loss, improve water quality of freshwater ecosystems, address the wellbeing crisis in rural communities and reform food systems. These aspirational benefits are attracting the attention of growers and large corporations who are now openly supporting global regenerative practices in agriculture.

For some regenerative agriculture practices, the impact on productivity and profitability has been quantified. However, efforts to quantify combinations of practices and synergistic benefits are inconclusive and criticised for their bias or lack of scientific methodology. An investigative approach is required that resolves issues such as lack of standards or agreed indicators and methodologies used for the comparison of regenerative agriculture systems vs conventional ones, and selection bias in what constitutes a regenerative agriculture and conventional farm. The challenge in such an inquiry is how to bring greater clarity to these questions when beliefs, their theoretical base and some practices are contested between regenerative agriculture and the conventional science worlds.

This GRDC investment will see a transdisciplinary approach engage growers from across Australia and researchers from accredited scientific organisations to apply an objective, scientifically rigourous approach to investigate regenerative agriculture.

In March 2024, the research team led by Southern Cross University commenced a survey to tap into grower knowledge about regenerative agriculture. All sorts of growers are encouraged to complete the survey:
Project start date:
Project end date:
Crop type:
  • All Crops
Southern Cross University
North, South, West
Project status
status icon Active