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Demo Farm Could Plant Regenerative Agriculture Seed in ID

Brad Johnson/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy in Idaho is demonstrating regenerative farming practices in the hopes that they will spread throughout the region.

The organization's 30-acre, regenerative agriculture demo farm is near Twin Falls.

There have been few places where farmers can see these practices in action in the region, said Neil Crescenti, agriculture program manager for TNC in Idaho, but he noted that they increasingly will become necessary as global temperatures rise.

"As we see the impact of climate change continue, we're seeing greater impacts on our water supplies, on temperatures, climate variability," he said. "So, regenerative systems can really help mitigate or create more resilient agriculture over time, that can really benefit those communities."

The food and agribusiness Simplot is sponsoring the project, providing agronomy support and technical equipment such as moisture probes, cover-crop seed and fertilizer. TNC in Idaho also is partnering with producer and landowner Todd Ballard, whose family has been farming near Twin Falls for more than a century.

Some of the practices they're demonstrating are no-till farming, where a second crop is planted directly into the first crop without disturbing the soil; and cover-crop planting to preserve the farm's living root system. Crescenti said they're also using diverse crop rotations. Traditional systems usually use one or two crops.

"You're able to gain benefits from that diversity," he said, "whether it's from different nutrients that the plants interact with in the soil or reducing weeds and pests through specific types of crops."

He said these methods reduce the reliance on fertilizers and the amount of water farms use. They also enhance the soil's ability to store carbon in the ground, which is crucial for reducing carbon emissions.

The ultimate goal is to demonstrate how farmers can save money with these practices, although Crescenti acknowledged that making changes can be financially risky since they take years to implement. He said moving to a more regenerative agriculture system also will require a cultural shift.

"We know that within a farming community, a lot of practice adoption is actually peer-to-peer," he said. "It's seeing what your neighbor is doing and seeing when it works, and adopting it from there."