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Simulating Regenerative Agriculture in En-ROADS

 I led a demonstration of En-ROADS and a participant stated 'This program does not handle the solution I am interested in, Regenerative Agriculture.  I mentioned that En-ROADS allows us in a backdoor by using a combination of Other gases, Afforestation and Deforestation, and Carbon capture.  This was a long way around what the participant wanted which was to see a slider with BAU and highly incentivized Regenerative Ag and highly discouraged.

Anyone have a better answer to ways of demonstrating a common 'solution' for Climate Change mitigation.  She mentioned Lal Rattan's figures for carbon sequestration for instance.

Thank you

Regenerative agriculture is an exciting possibility and there is a growing list of advocates, from all walks of life.

At CI, we've done some work to try to understand the latest science and reports on nature based solutions and regenerative agriculture.  A good place to start is our blog post here:

There is a problem that I've seen about "regenerative agriculture" -- it is a broad term that includes many different things.  This makes it hard to grapple with because advocates sometimes don't always use the terms the same.  Also, a broad term makes it harder to analyze rigorously because it can include many different policy combinations.

The above blog post is a good reference for how to use the existing En-ROADS to understand the food system and some regenerative ag policies.

But CI is also actively working on integrating ag and food system policies into a future version of En-ROADS. We'll be expanding the link between food demand and land-use change.  This means there will be stronger link between ag and forestry.  Also, we're going to be including agroforestry, diets, and other levers to understand some of the possible ag and food system policies.

As I told a recent webinar attendee:  we'd love to hear from you about what policies you would like to be able to represent in En-ROADS, and even what you mean by regenerative agriculture!

I'm also very interested in having the advantages of soil carbon sequestration better integrated into the EN-ROADS tool. Though no expert, I've done a certain amount of reading on the topic and wanted to share a number of recent peer-reviewed articles on the subject of defining and measuring the value of regenerative agriculture for providing negative emissions. It offers not only one of the least expensive ways of achieving significant reduction of atmospheric carbon (vs. e.g., BECCS -- bioenergy with carbon capture & Storage), but also has rich multisolving potential by improving soil health and water quality; increasing crop yields without chemical inputs from petroleum byproducts and increased nitrous oxide emissions; and supporting  crop resilience in the face of increased flooding and droughts.

While its  contribution reaches a point of saturation when the approximately 50% decline in soil organic matter caused by bad farming techniques has been remediated, it has tremendous potential for effective sequestration in the near- to- mid-term. That gives time for other types of  sequestration such as afforestation ramp up and for advances in technologies like direct air removal and enhanced weathering to occur.

I'm attaching a file with some recent articles on the issue of quantifying what soil carbon sequestration can offer. I also included some of the solutions identified in Project Drawdown that are part of a natural carbon sequestration approach. The references should lead you to researchers whose help might make the job of integrating soil carbon sequestration into EN-ROADS less burdensome.

Thanks for this fabulous tool and the deeply important lessons it imparts. I'm not sure my file uploaded properly and will be happy to try another way of getting it to you if necessary.


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Thank you for the article. 

I agree - there are definitely reasons to adopt regenerative agricultural practices even with some uncertainties with respect to carbon removal.  Less chemicals, cleaner water, better drought resilience and reduced flooding (all you mentioned) are great reasons to change farming methods. And, if the science bares out like initial studies show about carbon, then carbon is just *another* reason to do it.

When I've talked with farmers about change their practices, it is often faced with skepticism and/or they're interest but roadblocked. No markets, wrong equipment, etc.  

Anyone have ideas about how to increase the adoption rate?  Solutions don't matter unless they are used at scale.

I agree that many farmers are hesitant to change their practices because change can be risky and have a negative economic impact on their already narrow profit margins.  Additionally, a transition to regenerative practices can entail extra costs over the first 3 years or so.

But as a resident in an agricultural area of New York State, we also see many farms investing in this transition, including some real leaders in a regenerative farming movement. Over the last couple of years, there's been a sea change in openness to regenerative methods and a dramatic growth of support for farmers who want to make this transition, starting with programs in the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA, U.S. state policies and work by NGOs to support adoption of regenerative practices and to establish ecosystem service markets that will pay farmers a premium per acre for soil carbon sequestration and other co-benefits of these practices.

I've attached a document (apologies for its length) that provides an overview of changing attitudes and growing incentives and support for farmers who take this path. To my mind, it suggests the kind of growth that will result in use at scale -- certainly in the U.S. and in the E.U.  I don't know the degree to which that's true in Asia, South American or Africa.  It's a whole separate literature with which I'm not familiar.

Bottom line, I do hope you'll change your mind about the degree to which obstacles block adoption in North America and Europe!


Eleanor -- Thank you for the note of hope, back up with experience/examples. I do agree that State policies have been changing (though not in some midwest states) and the NRCS has good messaging.  I was at a NRCS presentation and they said all the right things to a room full of farmers.  I'm would guess zero of them changed their practices though. Hopefully it softened them up a bit to the next time they hear the message.

I'll review the document you shared.  Thanks.

A quick note about the modeling:  we plan on presenting the best available science of nature-based solutions and allow users to explore things like adoption rates, and see how adoption rate affects emissions and temperature change.

Thanks for your kind response.  I'll look forward to the new modeling on nature-based solutions and hope the list of soil carbon references/resources in the file I put together portend real movement toward adopting sequestration practices to scale.

I just watched an excellent documentary about this on Netflix, Kiss The Ground. 

I'd be interested in hearing whether the potential for carbon sequestration, to the degree cited in the movie, is at all realistic. But even if not, the co-benefits are enormous and it's certainly one piece of the puzzle. 

In regards to the wide-spread adoption of these methods, especially in the mid-west, one of the interesting points made in the movie is that the federal government currently guarantees rates for the price of the major commodities. The end result is (sound familiar?) welfare for large corporations. However, this also suggests that, with a more enlightened federal government that no longer incentivizes existing farming practices and instead provides monetary support for the transition to a regenerative approach, things could change fairly quickly.  

Regenerative Agriculture was one of the first things I looked for as well. I too would love to see it in a future version. Thanks for this amazing tool!

Thanks all for this thread and posted resources. I'm literally wrapping up "Kiss the Ground" and prepping for my weekly virtual climate workshop in 2 hrs. Yes, I'd love to see the potential for carbon sequestration via regenerative agriculture as discussed in this movie and highlighted in resources such as and 


FYI, In looking through the Dec 2020 En-ROADS release,

I see it does have some Agricultural/Soil carbon removal items --

though no slider labeled "regenerative agriculture" per se.

Agri-soil is "turned off" in the baseline scenario, so it has to be turned on,

see the (*) items below.

It models a ramping up to a max removal rate in about 20 years,

and then continues into the future. There is a 1%/yr loss parameter

which slightly reduces the peak rate and also causes the rate to lessen in future decades.

The controlling values are scattered in a few locations

which I list here (*ed values are non-baseline):

Slider: Technological Carbon Removal

Turn it on in the details:

  Use detailed settings = Yes(*)

  Agri soil carbon sequestration (% of max potential in Assumtions) = 100(*)

  Agri soil carbon start year = 2021 (baseline)



  Carbon dioxide removal max --

    Agri soil carbon = 5.5 Gt/yr (baseline)

    Land required ... = 35 Mha/Gt (baseline)

    (Land required has no effect on removal but is added into the graph

    "Land for Carbon Dioxide Removal". Though, if these are existing Agri lands

    they may not need to be accounted here?)

  Carbon dioxide removal percent loss of carbon per year

    Agri soil carbon = 1.0 % (baseline)

Here's the graph of these Agri-soil removals:



Thanks for the continued engagement. A couple points to add to what Daniel posted - 

  1. You do not need to use detailed settings - if you move the basic Technological Carbon Removal slider you will get Ag Soil removal, along with the other techniques
  2. In an upcoming release you will be able to see two different graphs for land: Land for Farming with CO2 Removal - this will be soil carbon and mineralization, land that continues to grow food while removing CO2; and Land for Growing CO2 Removal Biomass - for BECCS, Afforestation, Biochar where there is a competition with cropland. 
  3. Getting food systems and land fully integrated is still a work in progress - it is quite a lot of complexity to get a properly detailed carbon cycle that has land use and farming techniques as an integral part of carbon flows
We appreciate your patience. For now, you could consider thinking about regenerative agriculture as a combination of soil carbon removal plus the emissions reductions from agriculture. I talked about how to simulate those in En-ROADS given what we have now in a blog post and video linked here: how to talk about food in En-ROADS

thank you

Thanks for the further information and the video -- yes, it's complicated!

Re item 1. : It's true that if I set the TCR slider to "low growth" (specifically, 23%), then

the total removed to 2100 is about the same as the 100% Agri-soil removal by itself, plot below.

BUT, the TCR slider method bundles-in the Bio/CCS unicorns, which I wanted to avoid ;-)



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