So I went to a big ag farm conference, and was surprised to find much of the talk was about regenerative agriculture!
I typed up the notes I took and they are about 7 pages so instead of posting them here, I'll just give a summary. If interested, you can read the entirety of what I learned here:
The big thing was that farmers in my bioregion, with similar financial situations, have found ways to successfully use cover crops, multi species cash crops and compost tea in commercial grain production. I can now talk about new farm methods tried by "the farmer down the road" instead of "something I read on the internet". It moves the needle from "I don't know if that could work here" to "it might be worth a try".
A new method surprised me, and it worked well for two low rainfall farmers already; planting a cash crop, with a mix of cover crops in the spring, graze it in the summer, the cover crops are all ones that die in winter, and the cash crop takes off the next year for a grain harvest. Being able to keep a living root in the ground and avoid a fallow season will be a great benefit.
One guy told of his good results using mycorhyzal fungi inoculent on his seed wheat instead of the usual fungicide seed coating. These no-till farmers still use a lot of herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, but they are excited about using less.
Also at the conference was a session about work being done to make "regenerative ag" a certification like USDA Organic. I don't know how that's going to turn out once the marketing types get a hold of it. No one talked about organic certification as a farm method or marketing strategy, so it seems like there is a shelf life to such ventures. Organic seems to be its own separate bubble in the industry.
A carbon credits spokesperson talked about their startup working to connect farmers who can prove they are sequestering carbon with well, mainly fossil fuel users seeking to buy forgiveness. It sounds like a scam, but I guess we'll let the market decide.
Of the 19 sessions, only 3 were about pesticide topics. At other ag conferences I've been to its the opposite ratio, almost all about chemicals and a couple sessions about soil health and biology. There were several companies in the exhibitors hall selling natural and organic crop nutrition products. So the tide is turning, chem ag is getting competition from nature focused methods. Nearly every speaker said something like "we have to rebuild the soil, and biology is the only way to do it."
One last thing, there were no agricultural robots. Maybe next time.