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Seed Diversity and the Importance of Regenerative Agriculture

When you hear the word “seeding,” what comes to mind? If you’re a techie, it may mean sharing files with others. If you play a team sport or are a fan of them, it probably means the distribution of ranking teams so that skill levels are equally matched in competitions. If you work in marketing research, then your first thought may be of designating content in social media so that it spreads via influencers.

Regardless of the field or industry in which the word is used, a common meaning is clear. To seed is to distribute something with the hopes of it taking hold and growing. And while seeding has proven popular in tech, sports, and social media, the area in which it is most vital to the survival of Earth is the one that is at greatest risk.

Seed diversity—the planting of a variety of seeds rather than hybrid varieties or genetically modified ones—has diminished dramatically, in part due to the decline in soil health, also known as soil degradation. Among the factors contributing to soil degradation are pollution, urban expansion, and climate change. Without healthy soil that’s full of organic matter, crops won’t grow successfully. And without successful crops, essential food supplies for many people are threatened.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, fewer than 200 fruit and vegetable species make up a large part of the global food supply. Considering that thousands of fruit and vegetable species are grown for food, our dependence on such a small number is cause for concern, and cause for renewed focus on seed diversity.

Seed diversity results in more-resilient crops, ones that are naturally resistant to diseases and pests, which means the application of toxic pesticides is reduced. Studies have also shown that crop diversity encourages dietary diversity, which is necessary for nutritional health, and biodiversity, which means the organisms that populate the soil also eat healthfully.

Depending on where you live, you may not have access to a garden, whether in your backyard or in a community space. But there are other ways to help regenerate the soil and encourage seed diversity, such as composting or buying food from local farmers who practice regenerative agriculture, which helps rebuild organic matter in soil.

As with most things in life, there is no one-size-fit-all approach to encouraging and promoting seed diversity and soil regeneration. But the greater the variety of seeds planted and crops grown, the greater the opportunities for connections to be made and fostered among us, the environment, and the planet.