Financial Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture for Farmers

In many ways, regenerative farming is closer to a set of practices than a defined form of farming. Whilst Organic has strict criteria that need to be met, regenerative farming is often represented as a set of principles that improve a farm’s impact on ecosystems. These principles lay the path towards ecosystem restoration.

Read more about what regenerative agriculture is, here.

But why, beyond the environmental impact, should farmers consider adopting regenerative practices? Here, I’ll briefly introduce each of Groundswell’s 5 key regenerative principles, the funding available to support them, and the farm performance benefits they can have.

Don’t disturb the soil

“Soil supports a complex network of worm-holes, fungal hyphae and a labyrinth of microscopic air pockets surrounded by aggregates of soil particles. Disturbing this, by ploughing or heavy doses of fertiliser or sprays will set the system back.”  – Groundswell, 2021

Healthy undisturbed soil provides a host of benefits to the farm. Good soil structure improves water and nutrient retention (preventing loss) and increases nutrient bioavailability for plants. Soil fungi also provide symbiotic benefits to crops, increasing crop resilience against pests and diseases. This all helps to reduce crop losses during droughts, disease and pest outbreaks and reduces dependence on synthetic N – increasing the resilience of crop outputs and lowering costs.

In practice, this means reducing the intensity of tillage and particularly inversion tillage by shallow or strip-tilling or direct drilling crops into a previous crop. Judiciously lowering or stopping the use of synthetic N also allows soil biology to thrive. Many farmers believe that strategic tillage is okay as long as the soil biology is healthy and can quickly recover after a pass with the plough.

Financial benefits

  • Reducing ploughing frequency can reduce fuel costs
  • Healthy undisturbed soils can increase crop resilience reducing crop losses

Keep the soil surface covered

“The impact of rain drops or burning rays of sun or frost can all harm the soil. A duvet of growing crops, or stubble residues, will protect it.” – Groundswell, 2021

Soil loss is costly and fertiliser is an expensive resource, as the conflict in Ukraine has made all too apparent. Continuous soil cover helps to keep soil healthy and on the field, not running over the road and into the river where it’s of little use for farming and unpopular with the fish.

Financial benefits

  • Reducing soil loss and damage can improve crop productivity
  • Soil cover can reduce spend on fertiliser

Keep living roots in the soil

“In an arable rotation there will be times when this is hard to do but living roots in the soil are vital for feeding the creatures at the base of the soil food web; the bacteria and fungi that provide food for the protozoa, arthropods and higher creatures further up the chain. They also keep mycorrhizal fungi alive and thriving and these symbionts are vital for nourishing most plants and will thus provide a free fertilising and watering service for crops.”  – Groundswell, 2021

Roots are a network that holds the soil together and provides tunnels and surfaces for soil biology to thrive. This provides performance benefits to crops. A host of agri-environment options provide funding for increased soil cover including SFI’s SAM2: Multi-species winter cover (£129/ha) and SAM3: Herbal leys (£382/ha)

In combination with the previous two principles, this helps to increase soil organic matter and, therefore, carbon (Poeplau & Don, 2015). Private schemes are being developed by organisations such as Soil Capital to fund farmers for the carbon they store in soils and a Soil Carbon Code is being developed by the Sustainable Soil Alliance. Although challenges remain, these kinds of schemes aim to increase the flow of private funding to support regenerative practices.

Financial benefits

  • SFI and CS payments provide payments for options that increase crop cover, soil structures and crop resilience.
  • Private schemes are developing to increase these benefits by paying farmers for increasing soil carbon.

Grow a diverse range of crops

“Ideally at the same time, like in a meadow. Monocultures do not happen in nature and our soil creatures thrive on variety. Companion cropping (two crops are grown at once and separated after harvest) can be successful. Cover cropping, (growing a crop which is not taken to harvest but helps protect and feed the soil) will also have the happy effect of capturing sunlight and feeding that energy to the subterranean world, at a time when traditionally the land would have been bare.”  – Groundswell, 2021

This diversity can be achieved in a host of ways. Breaking up fields by planting more hedges and adding legumes, cover crops and experimenting with different varieties within the crop rotation increases diversity across the farm. This increases the resilience of a farm by restricting the spread of crop-specific pests and diseases. Many regenerative farmers go one step further and increase in-field diversity through strip cropping, interseeding or planting population varieties (a mix of genetically distinct varieties). These approaches can increase resource use efficiency within fields and lower risks.

Financial benefits

  • Diversity across all levels of the farm reduces exposure to loss from pest and disease damage.
  • Variety aids resource use efficiency and brings different services to the farm, for example, legumes in rotation draw nitrogen into the soil lowering fertiliser dependency and cost.

Bring grazing animals back to the land

“This is more than a nod to the permanent pasture analogy, it allows arable farmers to rest their land for one, two or more years and then graze multispecies leys. These leys are great in themselves for feeding the soil and when you add the benefit of mob-grazed livestock, it supercharges the impact on the soil.”  – Groundswell, 2021

Grazing animals, at the right stocking rate, are integral to many of the UK’s priority habitats and provide an efficient way to valorise and cycle organic material back into the soil. Being able to graze off your SFI-funded herbal leys means you can generate additional income and cycle nutrients back into the soil ready for the subsequent crop.

The integration of livestock and cropping used to be essential to farming but synthetic fertilisers have severed this link. Now farmers are increasingly exploring new ways to bring animals back to the land in a way that is informed by the natural carrying capacity of the habitat. Grazing licenses offer a way for stockless arable farms to bring animals onto fields and for graziers to reap the nutrient-rich and diverse rewards of cover crops and herbal swards.

Others are buying in their own herds, of often more traditional livestock such as belted galloways, as a way to graze a wide range of habitats without degrading the land.

Financial benefits

  • Livestock provide a way to generate income from fertility building crops such as herbal leys.
  • Grazing cover crops and herbal leys provides an excellent source of forage for livestock.
Sheep in a field


Lastly, it is important to mention agroforestry, a practice that aligns with many of the principles above. Trees in fields stabilise and improve soils, provide continuous soil cover and root structure, increase habitat and resource diversity and have been shown not just to align with, but to benefit livestock (England et al. 2020). Shade, shelter and fodder from trees all help to lower stress and improve the health of animals.

At Land App, we make it easy and efficient to plan your regenerative practices, to have the greatest positive impact on your farm business and the wider environment. From planning your SFI and Countryside Stewardship options to planning agroforestry with our soon-to-be-released agroforestry tool.

Start your regenerative farming journey with us today


I have spent the last four years working with farmers, NGOs, businesses, and government bodies exploring how agriculture can transition in an economically and environmentally sustainable way. Managing land in a regenerative and informed way has huge potential to enhance UK habitats providing benefits to society in the form of more resilient and higher quality food production, cleaner air and water, improved flood resilience, more space for recreation, and greater species diversity and abundance. These services benefit all of society and I am passionate about building an economy that provide fair payment to those providing them.
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