Orsolya Valkó, scientific advisor at the ELKH Centre for Ecological Research (CER), has played a leading role in preparing the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council’s (EASAC) latest comprehensive study, which presents a regenerative, renewable agricultural model. Szabolcs Lengyel, another scientific advisor at CER was also involved in the work of the international group of experts. The research findings suggest that transitioning to the new model could help reduce the negative impacts of agricultural activity and preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services in a number of ways. The official presentation of the study Regenerative Agriculture in Europe – A Critical Analysis of Contributions to the European Union Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies was held on April 6, 2022, at the headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Though agricultural activity lays the foundations for human life, in many cases it exercises significant adverse effects on natural habitats, plant and animal species, and ecosystem services. Agriculture is one of the main drivers of deforestation and other habitat conversion activities worldwide, and about a third of greenhouse gas emissions are also linked to agriculture.

In their recent study, members of an international working group convened by EASAC sought to answer the question of whether agriculture can contribute to biodiversity conservation and climate protection. The aim of the working group was to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the agri-environmental policy of the European Union, during which the researchers also examined whether the current regulations allow for the implementation of a regenerative agricultural model.

The European Green Agreement, which aims to make Europe a carbon-neutral continent by 2050, makes the work particularly current. The biodiversity strategy and the ‘farm to fork’ strategy are two key pillars of the Green Agreement. Their common goal is to reduce the adverse effects of agriculture on biodiversity and climate and to restore the biodiversity of Europe’s agricultural landscape.

The working group examined the interactions and mutual effects between agriculture, biodiversity and climate. They systematically analyzed the rich international literature published on this topic, with a particular focus on review studies and meta-analysis. They identified positive agricultural practices that ensure this activity can actively contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

The researchers also made recommendations for the further development of certain elements of the European Union’s common agricultural policy, emphasizing the importance of spatial and temporal diversification of agricultural production. Their proposals include promoting crop rotation, row crops and cover crops through support for gentle tillage and year-round crop cover. The researchers point out that the implementation of environmentally friendly agricultural practices in a coordinated way at the landscape level could significantly increase the positive effects of the regenerative farming elements used on individual farms. For this reason, it is considered extremely important that support schemes be made available that can be used jointly by farmers in a given landscape.

The study also highlights the importance of restoring natural habitats, which, in addition to conserving biodiversity, can also contribute to the sustainability of agricultural production, including the conservation of key organisms such as pollinators or the natural enemies of agricultural pests.