Regenerative Food and Farming

common terms to understand


Aeroponics: a plant-cultivation technique in which plant roots hang suspended in the air while nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.

Aerobic composting: is decomposition of organic matter using microorganisms that require oxygen. The microbes responsible for composting are naturally occurring and live in the moisture surrounding organic matter…. As aerobic digestion takes place the by-products are heat, water and carbon dioxide.

Afforestation: is the process of planting large numbers of trees on land which has few or no trees on it, as opposed to the opposite, deforestation

Agroecology: we believe is another word for regenerative agriculture.

The United Nations defines it as this:

  • Preferentially use local renewable resources and close as far as possible resource cycles of nutrients and biomass.
  • Input reduction. Reduce or eliminate dependency on purchased inputs.
  • Soil heath. Secure and enhance soil health and functioning for improved plant growth, particularly by managing organic matter and by enhancing soil biological activity.
  • Animal health. Ensure animal health and welfare.
  • Maintain and enhance diversity of species, functional diversity and genetic resources and maintain biodiversity in the agroecosystem over time and space at field, farm and landscape scales.
  • Enhance positive ecological interaction, synergy, integration, and complementarity amongst the elements of agroecosystems (plants, animals, trees, soil, water).
  • Economic diversification. Diversify on-farm incomes by ensuring small-scale farmers have greater financial independence and value addition opportunities while enabling them to respond to demand from consumers.
  • Co-creation of knowledge. Enhance co-creation and horizontal sharing of knowledge including local and scientific innovation, especially through farmer-to-farmer exchange.
  • Social values and diets. Build food systems based on the culture, identity, tradition, social and gender equity of local communities that provide healthy, diversified, seasonally and culturally appropriate diets.
  • Support dignified and robust livelihoods for all actors engaged in food systems, especially small-scale food producers, based on fair trade, fair employment and fair
    treatment of intellectual property rights.
  • Ensure proximity and confidence between producers and consumers through promotion of fair and short distribution networks and by re-embedding food systems into local economies.
  • Land and natural resource governance. Recognize and support the needs and interests of family farmers, smallholders and peasant food producers as sustainable managers and guardians of natural and genetic resources.
  • Encourage social organization and greater participation in decision-making by food producers and consumers to support decentralized governance and local adaptive management of agricultural and food system.

Agroforestry: cultivation and use of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock in agricultural systems.

Agronomist: an advisor on soil management and the production of field crops.

Afforestation: the act or process of establishing a forest especially on land not previously forested.

Albedo affect: refers to the fact that light surfaces, such as glacial ice sheets, reflect more heat than dark surfaces, such as ocean water. This is one of the feed back loops whereby more heat is created and so my heat melts the ice and so, over time it feeds more heat into the system, melting more ice, creating more heat!

Animal integration: a regenerative practice that mimics nature by adding livestock to farming. The animals can eat the cover crops used to protect the soil while adding manure etc that improves soil health. 

Anthropocene: the period of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age

Antibiotic resistance: The main cause of antibiotic resistance is antibiotic use. When we use antibiotics, some bacteria die but resistant bacteria can survive and even multiply. The overuse of antibiotics makes resistant bacteria more common. The more we use antibiotics, the more chances bacteria have to become resistant to them

Antimicrobial resistance: occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective. When the microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as “superbugs”

Aquaponic: refers to a system that combines conventional aquiculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal agriculture, excretions from the animals being raised, can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. This way, those excretions are used.

Aquifer: an area of rock under the surface of the earth which absorbs and holds water.

Arable farming: the growing of crops.

Arthoropods: are creatures that have exoskeletons and jointed legs. They make up more than 80% of all animals, many of which are successful in dry environments. In the soil they include mites, millipedes, centipedes, springtails, and grubs. They eat detritus and are therefore nutrient recyclers and some are pollinators

Autotropic respiration: is the metabolism of organic matter by plants

Biochar: biologically activated charcoal that is used as a nutritional supplement for Soil

Biota: soil organisms.

Biodiversity: the existence of a wide diversity of plant and animal species and other organisms living in their natural environment

Biodynamic: relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilising and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles.

Biosequestration: the capture and storage of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by biological processes. 

Brix / Brix scale: in agriculture this is usually a measurement of solids, mainly sugars, in plant sap. It is a useful tool as sugar production relates to how well the plant is photosynthesising and turning light and carbon into carbohydrates. If you have a grape juice that reads 24 on the Brix scale, that means that the juice is made up of 24% sugar by weight.

Browse: in a farming context, where animals eat leaves and branches from available trees and shrubs.

Carbon cycle: how carbon compounds are processed in the environment typically involving carbon dioxide being incorporated into plants and some other organisms by photosynthesis and returned to the atmosphere through respiration, the decay of dead organisms, and the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon footprint: the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period

Carbon sequestration: the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide in plants, soils, geologic formations, and waterways.  

CLAs: (conjugated linoleic acids) are healthy fats that has been shown to fight obesity, cancer, and diabetes in lab animals. Tests are now taking place in humans. There are far more CLA’s in meat and milk grazing on pasture than from those fed grains and further flourish when produced by animals grazing at high altitudes and in the Autumn.

Climate change: a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns and average temperatures.

Closed pollination: occurs naturally in plants that can self-fertilise or can self-pollinate with the help of pollinators fertilised but this is also a term used for artificial pollination that is done by hand or manmade technologies.

Compost: the recycling of organic waste materials through decomposition into a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer that improves soil fertility and biodiversity and prevents soil erosion. Bioactive compost contains a broad range of microorganisms and can be inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi also.

Compost tea: is water in which compost has been steeped. The water must remain aerated to ensure they continue to contain living beneficial microorganisms. These microorganisms can be fed with a small amount of humic acid or molasses and therefore are some of the compost’s nutrients, microorganisms, and humates.

Conservation tillage: is an agricultural management approach that aims to minimise the frequency or intensity of tillage operations in an effort to promote both economic and environmental benefits. This can be by reducing the depth and amount of ploughing, leaving crop residues to cover the soil and slowly rot in, rather than being burnt or ploughed in and by using a direct drill machine.

Cover crop: plants grown primarily for the benefit of the soil rather than a crop yield; commonly used to suppress weeds, manage soil erosion, help build soil fertility, control diseases and pests, and promote biodiversity.

Crop rotation: the agricultural practice of growing a series of different types of crops in the same location over the years so that the soil is not overly depleted of specific nutrients used by a single plant.

Desertification: the process of land turning into desert as the quality of the soil declines over time.

Drawdown: when greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere decline, a goal for reversing climate change. 

Ecosystem: the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit.

Ecological restoration: activity that attempts to return an ecosystem to an undisturbed natural state.

Ecosystem services: benefits humans gain from the natural environment and from properly functioning ecosystems (such as accessing clean drinking water or the natural pollination of crops). 

Endocrine disrupters: sometimes also referred to as hormonally active agents, endocrine disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disrupting compounds are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine systems. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

Flexitarian: a person who sometimes eats meat or fish although they do not usually do so.

Forbs: herbaceous, flowering, broadleaved plants (cf grasses).

Forest garden: is a low-maintenance, sustainable, plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut treesshrubsherbsvines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.

Fossil fuel: hydrocarbons, primarily coal, fuel oil or natural gas, formed typically over millions of years from the remains of dead plants and animals.

Fungicide: any toxic substance used to kill or inhibit the growth of fungi.

Gene (genome) editing: is the science of changing how a living creature or plant develops by changing the information in its genes. A gene is a unit inside a cell that controls a particular quality in a living thing that has been passed on from its parents

Glomalin: is a gluey like protein substance, high in carbon produced by mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi take liquid carbon from plant roots, to create this protective goo to coat their hyphae, (tubular structures). This is to keep water and nutrients from getting lost on the way to and from a plant root and the fungi. It is tough, high in carbon and nitrogen, important in the formation of soil aggregates, does not dissolve in water and therefore important in the long term storage of carbon and is thought to store around 27% of the carbon in soil.

Green Manure: is created by leaving uprooted or sown crop parts to wither on a field so that they serve soil protection and can add beneficial nutrients to the soil. The plants used for green manure are often cover crops grown primarily for this purpose.

GMO: genetically modified organism.

Guttation: is the exudation of drops of xylem sap on the tip edges of leaves of some plants, such as grasses and a number of fungi. It usually happens in the night and when the humidity is high.

Hectare: an area of land equivalent to approximately 38 tennis courts.

Herbal ley: a complex seed mixture of grasses, legumes and herbs, which bring a range of benefits to forage, livestock health and soil fertility.

Herbicide: a substance used to kill or inhibit the growth of plants, especially weeds.

Heritage varieties: heritage, or heirloom, seeds or varieties are not widely available and often have characteristics which are adapted to specific local conditions.

Heterotropic respiration: is the metabolism of. organic matter by bacteria, fungi, and animals.

Holistic: dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part.

Holistic planned grazing: a planning and adaptive management process for integrating livestock production with crop, wildlife and forest production while working to ensure continued land regeneration, animal health and welfare, and profitability.

Horticulture: the study or practice of growing flowers, fruit and vegetables

Humates: a mineral salt of humic acid formed from decomposed prehistoric plant and animal matter, used as a fertilizer. Humate is the generic name for soil humic substances.

Humic Acid: is the chemical properties of humate

Humification: is the method by which dead organic matter is converted into humus by oxygen. It releases nutrients into the soil and is accelerated with high rainfall and heat.

Humus: is a black amorphous substance produced by the decomposition of dead and decaying organic matter by microorganisms

Hydroponics: is the science of growing plants without using soil, by feeding them on mineral nutrient salts dissolved in water

Intercropping: the companion planting method of growing one crop alongside another

Labile soil carbon: is made up of small pieces of plant debris, living organisms and remnants of dead organisms. They breaks down relatively quickly and is an active source of nutrition for soil microbes.

Legumes: (peas, beans, vetches, clovers, alfalfa, alders and others) are useful crops as they help microorganisms pull nitrogen, vital for plant growth, out of the atmosphere and into the soil. Growing legumes reduces the need for detrimental artificial nitrogen fertilizer

Liquid carbon pathway: is the living biomass of the soil i.e. living microorganisms taking carbohydrates being offered by plant roots and using it for food, excreting it in the form of slimes, building fungal hyphae etc.

Market gardening: is a relatively small operation, usually under one acre, used for the small-scale production of vegetables, flowers, and fruits as cash crops. Typically, a market garden will grow a diverse variety of crops as opposed to a monoculture.

Managed grazing: farm practices that attempt to improve animal pastures by imitating the natural activity of migratory herds that cluster tightly for protection (also called “mob grazing”). The livestock disturb the soil with their hooves while eating—naturally incorporating their manure— and then move on so the land is improved and less likely to be damaged.

Mass extinction: an event in which a considerable portion of the world’s biodiversity is lost

Macrofauna: include earthworms, potworms, springtails, mites, fly larvae, beetles, millipedes, centipedes, isopods, ants, spiders, and snails associated with fragmentation and decomposition of organic matter, plant nutrient uptake and growth, and infiltration.

Microbes: also known as microorganisms are tiny living things that are found all around us and are too small to be seen by the naked eye. They live in water, soil, and in the air. The human body is home to millions of these microbes, some microbes make us sick, others are important for our health.

Microgreens: or micro leaves, are simply the seedlings of leafy herbs and plants that we would usually allow to grow to full size before harvesting.

Min-till: short for minimum tillage; where there is minimum disturbance of the soil necessary to establish and grow crops

Mixed farming: is the practice of growing cash crops as well as raising animals

Mob grazing: grazing by a relatively large number of animals at a high stocking density for a short time period on a particular unit of pasture.

Monoculture: the cultivation or growth of a single crop or organism especially on agricultural or forest land

Mulch: is a material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) spread around or    over a plant to enrich the soil, or to reduce weeds, erosion or evaporation, or even to keep fruit (such as strawberries) clean

Multiple breadbasket failure: simultaneous major and widespread failure or loss of staple crops leading to food shortages around the world

Mycorrhizal fungi: soil-inhabiting fungi which form symbiotic relationships with plant roots by making minerals available and providing other health-enhancing services to the plants.

Natural capital: is something that is natural and is useful to us, eg soil, minerals; water; waste assimilation; carbon dioxide absorption; arable land; habitat; fossil fuels; erosion control; recreation; visual amenity; biodiversity; temperature regulation and oxygen. 

Nematode: a thin worm not divided into sections. They enhance soil quality in four major areas: regulate the populations of other soil organisms, mineralize nutrients into plant-available forms, provide a food source for other soil organisms and consume disease-causing organisms

Nitrates: chemical compounds of nitrogen and oxygen, used as agricultural fertiliser

No-till: the method of planting crops without disturbing/ cultivating the soil, (no tillage).

Open pollination: is when plants are naturally pollinated by insects or wind; not enforced pollination or in-breeding.

Organic farming: farming without man-made fertiliser, pesticides, growth regulators, livestock feed additives and GMOs.

Oxidation: the process in which the chemical makeup of a substance changes due to the addition of oxygen, eg through respiration, decay or fire. (Carbon dioxide is a necessary result of the oxidation of carbon compounds).

Pasture: land with grass and/or similar plants growing on it which are suitable for animals to eat

Pasture cropping: is a farming technique where annual crops are sown into a perennial grassland that is either entering dormancy or that has been prepared by grazing to take away the competitive advantage of the perennial grasses in the pasture.  

Pathogen: any small organism, such as a virus or bacterium, which can cause disease

Perennial: are plants that live more than two years and the name literally translates to “through the years.” Unlike short-lived annuals or biennials these varieties are fairly low-maintenance after their initial planting and therefore soil disturbance is minimalized.

Permaculture: a holistically-designed system of producing food that works with nature and is sustainable over the long term

Pesticide: a chemical substance used to kill unwanted insects, small animals, wild plants and other organisms.

Photosynthesis: the process by which a plant uses the energy from sunlight to produce its own food.

Plant exudates: are fluids emitted through the roots of plants that can both positively and negatively affect itself plus other plants and microbes nearby.

Precision farming: is the use of information technology such as GPS, sensors, robotics, drones, variable rate tech., control systems, autonomous vehicles, telematics, software, automated hardware that aim to help farmers have more accurate control over growing crops and raising animals

Regenerative: relates to something that is being grown again, especially the improvement of a place or system, making it more active or successful

Relay cropping: is a special version of double cropping, where the second crop is planted into the first crop before harvest, rather than waiting until after harvest as in true double-cropping. 

Re-wilding: enabling natural processes to shape land, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes.

Rotational grazing: a managed grazing technique that moves livestock to fresh fields or pastures, allowing those already grazed to recover. 

Ruminant: a type of animal that brings up food from its stomach and chews it again, for example; cows, sheep and goats.

Seeds: open pollinated seeds: are seeds that have resulted from natural pollination of the parent plant. These pollination methods include self-pollination as well as pollination achieved by birds, insects, and other natural means.

Seeds: heritage seeds: also known as Heirloom seeds, can be defined as being at least 100-years old, while others say they must have originated before widespread plant hybridization in the wake of World War II.

Seeds: hybrid seeds: are usually created when pollen of two different species or varieties is crossed by human intervention. Hybridization can occur naturally through random crosses but commercially available hybridized seed, often labelled as F1, is deliberately created to breed a desired trait. The first generation of a hybridized plant cross also tends to grow better and produce higher yields than the parent varieties due to a phenomenon called ‘hybrid vigour.’  However, any seed produced by F1 plants is genetically unstable and cannot be saved for use in following years. Not only will the plants not be true-to-type, but they will be considerably less vigorous. Gardeners who use hybrid plant varieties must purchase new seed every year. Hybrid seeds can be stabilized, becoming open-pollinated varieties, by growing, selecting, and saving the seed over many years.

Seeds: GM seeds: have had their genetic makeup altered through human intervention. Genes from a different species are inserted into a plant in hopes that the offspring will have the desired characteristics. Genetically modified seeds are not allowed in organic farming.

Silvopasture: the practice of integrating trees, forage and the grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way

Silvoarable: the growing of agricultural or horticultural crops alongside long-term tree crops.  

Soil aggregates: groups of soil particles that are bound together more strongly than other soil particles. They are organic coated, mineral particles that provide small spaces that serve to both retain and exchange air and water. These spaces create areas of weakness through which plant roots can grow.

Soil aggregate stability: a measure of soil structure that examines how well soil aggregates resist degradation in regards to water or wind erosion and other processes. Aggregates that fall apart too easily lead to soil erosion and infertility.

Soil biota: microorganisms (bacteria, algae and fungi, for example) and microscopic and macroscopic animals including protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods and microfauna that live in and on healthy soil interacting in beneficial ways with each other, plant roots, and the environment. 

Soil drenching: is when a small amount of bioactive’ compost is put in a meshed bag and agitated in water to create a compost tea.

Soil microbiome: refers to fungi, archaea and bacteria

Soil organic carbon: (SOC) refers only to the carbon component of organic compounds found in soil organic matter.

Soil organic matter: (SOM) is the organic matter component of soil, consisting of plant and animal detritus at various stages of decomposition, cells and tissues of soil microbes and substances that soil microbes create. It plays a critical role in soil fertility, the global carbon cycle and the fate of pollutants in soil.

Soil rhiziobiome: is the microbial ecosystem in the soil.

Soil rhizosphere: is the region of soil in the vicinity of plant roots in which the chemistry and microbiology is influenced by their growth, respiration, and nutrient exchange.

Strip tillage: also known as zone tillage, is a modified form of deep tillage, meaning narrow strips are tilled in the soil, but the plant residue between the rows is left undisturbed.

 Succession planting: is a way to extend your harvest by staggering plantings of crops or planting varieties by staggered maturing dates.

Sustainable: causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.

Sward: land covered with grassy turf

Swale: a long narrow piece of land lying lower than that surrounding it,  in permaculture it is a technique that captures water in the landscape for passive irrigation and slowing the rate of run-off.

Syntropic Agroforestry: successional agriculture, growing fruit, nuts, veg and timber in one area utilising the stratification, companion planting and copying nature to protect  growth, regenerate soils and support nature and ourselves. Ernst Gotsch, from Brazil is associated with its teaching.

Transpiration: is the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation from aerial parts, such as leavesstems and flowers. Water is necessary for plants but only a small amount of water taken up by the roots is used for growth and metabolism. The remaining 97–99.5% is lost by transpiration and guttation.

Veganic farming: is organic agriculture that is free from farmed animal inputs. While organic agriculture avoids use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and GMOs, veganic farming additionally avoids farmed animal byproducts including manure, fish emulsion, feather meal, blood meal, and bone meal. 

Vermicomposting: uses worms to decompose waste and make nutrient-rich “worm manure”.

Vermicast: (also called worm castings, worm humus, worm manure, or worm faeces) is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms. These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than the organic materials before vermicomposting

Vertical farming: is the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers. It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimise plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics.

Viticulture: the growing and harvesting of grapes usually for wine production.

Water-holding capacity: the ability of the soil to hold water. This is affected by soil aggregate stability and the amount of organic matter in the soil. One of the benefits of Regenerative Agriculture is improving the land’s ability to make use of the rainfall that occurs and eliminating topsoil degradation via water run-off. 

Wood pasture: an area of grazing land with trees.