Regenerating the Savannas, Savory style – Ricardo Aguirre’s Project for the Ages

Regenerative Agriculture

By: Tony Humble, Chairman & CEO, Soilcare.Earth Corp.

Ricardo Aguirre, a consulting engineer with West Consultants in AZ, is a man on a mission. His goal is to demonstrate how direct intervention can reverse the creeping desertification of the US Southwest, and turn semi-arid land into productive pasture, restoring perennial grasses to their former glory.  Soilcare.Earth is working with Ricardo in an effort to expand the scope of the projects into greatly improved water utilization, and incremental development of soil organic carbon (SOC).

We were originally attracted to Ricardo’s work through one of many YouTube videos published by popular “intensive rotational grazing” practitioner Greg Judy of Green Pastures Farm, in particular the Three Canyons project in the San Pedro Uplands region of Cochise County, to which Greg is an advisor.  The property consists of 480 acres of former farmland less than a mile from the San Pedro River.  Here is an excellent short video featuring Greg, Ricardo, and Karen Riggs, retired Cochise County Engineer, describing this exciting initiative.

The project will be an expected 5-year demonstration of the multi-paddock intensive rotational grazing technique originally conceived by former South African Provincial Game Officer Alan Savory, to mimic the powerful soil-building effect of mob grazing over millennia on the savannas and prairies of Africa and the Americas.  The Savory institute has become the leading global advocate for “holistic land management”.  His TED talk about his journey has become legendary, and is well worth the 22 minutes it takes to watch it through.

Seeing the Savory Institute as the ideal platform for supporting his personal and professional objective of reversing desertification in the US Southwest, Ricardo launched the Arizona hub of the Savory institute, and is actively involved in its setup and operation.  A series of Savory Institute inspired projects is already underway.  Beginning with the active Three Canyons project, continuing this Fall with a high-profile demonstration project at his generational family farm in Red Rock, AZ, and expanding into a potentially massive 42,000-acre project in New Mexico, Ricardo’s program is designed to bring international attention to the problem – and its ambitious, but high potential solutions.

Intensive multi-paddock rotational grazing is a cattle farming strategy for rapidly rebuilding the soil, by herding the animals into a succession of small, well grassed paddocks, so that their combined weight hammers the nutrient rich manure and urine into the soil, where the dung beetles drag it down deep into the soil profile.  These combined actions are exactly how the rich prairie soils were built, albeit one farm at a time, rather than millions of bison grazing shoulder to shoulder to protect against predators.

Ricardo’s hope, and that of a growing army of regenerative farmers throughout the Americas and around the world, is that the same effect can be achieved in a more distributed way, with “millions of mobs” rather than “mobs of millions” of grazing animals. The enriched soil enables the land to recover, and has the potential to feed the mounting population of the planet with nutritious food, in an equitably distributed manner.

We at Soilcare.Earth are delighted to be working with Ricardo, bringing our methods of effectively irrigating these “moving paddocks”, by oxidizing the heavy minerals in the scarce, brackish irrigation waste, blocking the formation of damaging salts, and enabling deep infiltration of the resultant soft water.  In this way, the resulting oxides (e.g., calcium, magnesium, sodium, manganese and iron) plus atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and a basket of oxygen molecules (O, O2, O3, O5) become available to build the soil food web.  They also directly nourish the roots of the perennial native grasses, of the type that once adorned the formerly lush prairie lands, enabling a greater multiple of grass-fed head of cattle per acre.

It is well documented that agricultural sector is the thirsty customer for 70% of the water usage in Southern California.  Ricardo’s projects will demonstrate the potential for dramatically reducing per-acre water usage, helping aquifers to become naturally re-filled, but also increasing the land area that can be productively irrigated.

Finally, restoring degraded farmland to its former productive capacity will slowly reverse another deadly effect of desertification.  Interstate Highways, particularly I-10 running East-to-West across Arizona, are suffering from increasingly dangerous dust storms, leading to multiple fatalities.  The restoration of the grasslands will, it is hoped, bind the soils, reducing the frequency and severity of these storms, eventually replace the mounting hazard with a lush landscape.