Climate Pioneers

How Latin America’s Farmers are Leading the Way on Regenerative Agriculture

Fazenda Estância

By Mauricio Rodrigues, Head LatAm Region, Bayer Crop Science

Latin America is a region rich in natural resources and fertile land. And it has long played a key role in global food security, contributing 16% of global food and agriculture exports.

But Latin America is no stranger to the threats of climate change. Hotter temperatures, more severe and frequent weather events, droughts and floods are becoming regular occurrences for farmers in the region and stymying efforts to ramp up agricultural production to meet the ever-growing global demand for food, fuel and fiber.

For many of Latin American farmers, therefore, the challenge is not only about making their operations more productive and sustainable. It’s also a matter of minimizing potential losses by making their farms more resilient to the impacts of climate change. This may explain the growing appeal of regenerative farming practices in the region. But in the absence of one common definition, the question remains: what is regenerative agriculture?

On the surface, it’s a method of farming that focuses on soil health. On closer inspection, however, it’s quite a bit more than that. It involves radically rethinking farming and reimagining the role of the farmer, from one that goes beyond being an agricultural producer and a good steward of the land to one where the farmer also provides valuable ecosystem services and is rewarded for them.

Such services could include reducing and sequestering carbon, promoting biodiversity, conserving water or improving soil health – all of which together lead to a more productive, sustainable and resilient farm and strengthen food security.

Advancing Regenerative Agriculture in Latin America

Fazenda Estância

Latin America is where a lot of innovation in regenerative farming is happening already today.

Brazilian farmers like Nathália and Aline Vick are passionate about driving this transformation in the fields. Just a few years ago, the two sisters took over their father’s 1,100 hectare farm Fazenda Estância, a three hour drive from São Paulo. Having long embraced sustainability in their work, they now cultivate a variety of crops like soybean, corn, sugar cane and cassava.

While the farm already had a history of regenerative practices, such as no-till farming and crop rotation, Nathália and Aline have successively added new techniques in the last three years to further regenerate the soil. These included measures like intensifying root rotation, using biological products alongside modern chemicals and doubling efforts to reduce and sequester carbon through participation in the PRO Carbono program.

Taken together, these improvements have helped make the farm more resilient to harsher climate conditions and ensure greater yield stability. This became evident in recent years when a succession of weather extremes – intense droughts and excessive rain – damaged large swaths of the area’s cropland in 2020, 2022 and again in 2023.

Fazenda Estância stood out from other farms in the region, as it harvested about 25% more than the average farm and had a significantly lower replanting rate. It also showed measurable environmental benefits. For example, higher levels of soil enzymatic activity have pointed toward better soil health. Reduced nitrogen fertilizer use has led to lower emissions. And keeping forest habitats on the property has helped to conserve essential biodiversity and water resources.

More farmers like Nathália and Aline Vick are recognizing the benefits of regenerative farming. That’s why a growing number of them are teaming up with suppliers and partners from across the food value chain to embed a system of regenerative solutions into their farm operations, combining innovations in seeds and traits, crop protection and digital technologies.

Early results are impressive. Based on data from the PRO Carbono program, participating farms in Brazil saw their yield increase by 11% and also an average rise of 16% in carbon sequestration in just two years.

The potential benefits could be even greater after four years: Field trials in Brazil show a productivity increase of 21% and triple the amount of carbon sequestered compared to other farms. It’s estimated that every hectare cultivated with regenerative farming has the potential to save the equivalent of one car’s total annual emissions.

Making Agriculture Part of the Solution to Climate Change

Fazenda Estância

In a changing climate, agriculture as we know it needs to change, and Latin American farmers are leading the way by embracing innovative technologies and partnerships.

They show us that we have a real opportunity to scale regenerative agriculture across the region and around the world because, when tailored to the specific conditions of each farm, it works in different geographies, in different climatic zones and on farms of different sizes.

Considering that Latin America alone has an estimated 750 million hectares of arable land, it’s clear that even a modest uptake of regenerative farming practices could have a huge impact.

Fazenda Estância, right in the rural heartland of São Paulo, is living proof that regenerative agriculture is more than a buzzword. It’s a whole system of solutions that delivers real and measurable outcomes for farmers and nature alike – and, ultimately, for us all.

Mauricio Rodrigues
Mauricio Rodrigues
Head of Latin America, Crop Science
4 min read