Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative
The Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (IRAI) fits into the iSEE research theme of Secure and Sustainable Agriculture. Sponsored by Fresh Taste, IRAI is a partnership between the Department of Crop Sciences, the College of ACES, U of I Extension, and iSEE.
A video introduction to IRAI:
Current environmental and economic trends highlight the need for agriculture and food systems that are resilient to climate change, improve soil and water quality, support healthy communities, and enhance food security. A promising approach that has gained considerable traction with farmers and food systems participants is “regenerative agriculture.” Regenerative agriculture represents the opportunity for a new synthesis — an outcome-driven approach — to advancing productivity, profitability, and environmental health in a way that enhances food security, reinvigorates rural and urban communities, and restores the natural systems that life depends on. The core value proposition of this synthesis is that technology and nature are not mutually exclusive.
The interdisciplinary foundation of agriculture, engineering, and computation positions the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to provide global leadership in regenerative agriculture research and innovation.
The deep academic strengths and mature relationships with a diverse community of stakeholders position the University of Illinois to become a national leader in regenerative ag. This new paradigm in agriculture will be propelled forward by actionable research, designed and conducted collaboratively with stakeholders, at the interface of agronomy, crop science, ecology, computer science, economics, and social dimensions. IRAI will engage all campus assets relevant to regenerative agriculture’s diverse land-based and community outcomes. A mission-critical function of the Initiative will be to facilitate ongoing conversations with key actors in the food system network: producers, landowners, value chains, end users, scientists, NGOs, technology firms, policy makers, the financial sector, and experts in the purposive disciplines (art, philosophy, etc.). IRAI will emphasize:
- building new collaborative relationships among Illinois scholars to conduct actionable research and train the next generation of practitioners in Regenerative Agriculture (capacity);
- intimately connect the stakeholder and the academic community in sustained two-way dialogs about research and education, and challenges to adoption and measuring impact (relationships); and
- heighten the visibility and impact of the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative and secure sustained financial support (sustainability).
- Public Meeting Set for April 9; Registration Open!
- IRAI Launched at U of I; First Call for Seed Grants Coming Soon!
The next Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative public meeting will be 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, April 9, 2021.
Organizers are hoping interested researchers, farmers, and organizations will join the discussion as IRAI releases its first Request for Proposals. The meeting will be used to answer questions and network for shared understanding and team development as we take the next steps.
Registration via zoom is open now. Click here to sign up! >>>
In Fall 2020, the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (IRAI) was launched as a new home for regenerative agriculture research, education, and outreach. IRAI receives grant support from Fresh Taste, and brings together stakeholders on campus and beyond to create agriculture and food systems resilient to climate change, improve soil and water quality, support healthy communities, and enhance food security.
In early 2021, IRAI will offer multiple seed grants in an open request for proposals (RFP). These competitive grants will be awarded to interdisciplinary teams of Illinois scholars and farming or food system stakeholders who address key metrics of regenerative agriculture: soil health parameters; on-farm biodiversity; or community health and resilience.
The new Initiative’s objectives and potential seed grant ideas were discussed on Oct. 30, 2020, at an online workshop. View the video of the meeting above or on YouTube >>>
Led by Crop Sciences Professor and Head Adam Davis, Plant Biology Professor and iSEE Founding Director Evan H. DeLucia, iSEE Interim Director Madhu Khanna, and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) Dean Kimberlee Kidwell, IRAI will be administered through iSEE along with leaders from Crop Sciences, the College of ACES, and the University of Illinois Extension. IRAI will be led by Emily Heaton of Iowa State, who joins the U of I’s Crop Sciences Department in 2021 as a Professor of Regenerative Agriculture and Extension specialist.
“The aim of regenerative agriculture is to advance the triple bottom line in agriculture — productivity, profitability, and environmental health — in a way that enhances food security, reinvigorates rural and urban communities, and restores the natural systems that life depends on,” said Davis, the lead PI on the Fresh Taste grant.
Regenerative agriculture distinguishes itself from, and yet encompasses, other conventional and sustainable approaches, such as organic production and no-till. Rather than dictating specific on-farm practices, regenerative agriculture is laser-focused on metrics and outcomes.
Said Khanna: “Regenerative agriculture is a promising approach to transforming the agricultural system to make it economically and environmentally sustainable. iSEE is excited to facilitate collaborations between our interdisciplinary research experts and our external partners to advance and apply the science required to realize this promise.”
The IRAI Team
Principal Investigators and co-PIs (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign unless otherwise noted)
- PI and Director: Emily Heaton, Professor of Regenerative Agriculture, Department of Crop Sciences
Departmental page coming soon!
- PI: Adam Davis, Professor and Head, Department of Crop Sciences
Departmental page >>>
- Co-PI: Evan H. DeLucia, Arends Professor, Department of Plant Biology
Departmental page >>>
Lab page >>>
- Co-PI: Madhu Khanna, ACES Endowed Professor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Departmental page >>>
- Co-PI Kimberlee Kidwell, Professor and Dean, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
College of ACES page >>>
- Anya Knecht, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE)
Partners & Teams
- Coming soon!
Publications & Presentations
(iSEE project members’ names in bold)
- Coming soon!