Noble Research Institute plans to focus on regenerative agriculture and regenerating millions of acres of degraded grazing lands across the United States. The institute will work directly with farmers and ranchers across the nation to help them transition to regenerative land management. They will also work with farmers and ranchers to maintain regenerative management.
“Land stewardship is a core value held by many farmers and ranchers,” said Steve Rhines, president and CEO of Noble. “Regenerative agriculture is the next step in the land stewardship journey wherein farmers and ranchers reduce their reliance on conventional practices and concentrate on restoring or regenerating the soil. The soil is the cornerstone of a healthy ecosystem and a productive farm or ranch.”
Regenerative agriculture differs from both mainstream conventional and organic agriculture in that it does not focus on inputs. Instead, regenerative agriculture uses interactions among soil, plants, water and animals to help build resilience in the soil. Resilient soil is more drought- and flood-resilient, decreases the use of chemical inputs, reduces water contaminants, enhances wildlife habitats, and captures carbon in the soil to mitigate climate variability.
Noble’s programming will center exclusively on regenerative ranching, which applies regenerative principles specifically to grazing lands. About 85% of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing human food crops, such as corn. However, grazing lands provide consumers with nutrient-dense meat from grazing animals, such as beef cattle, one of Noble’s primary focuses for the past 75 years.
Importantly, the U.S. has about 655 million acres of grazing lands across all 50 states — making grazing the nation’s single largest land use. It is estimated that 70% of global grazing lands are in a state of degradation.
Working directly with farmers and ranchers, Noble’s consultants, educators and researchers will seek ways to overcome the barriers that often deter farmers and ranchers from adopting or using regenerative principles. These barriers include the lack of science-based and economic knowledge about the impact of regenerative management as well as limited access to practical information that farmers and ranchers can use in day-to-day operations.
“Without an understanding of key principles or help answering vital questions, adoption of regenerative ranching can seem too great a challenge to attempt alone,” Rhines said. “For 75 years, farmers and ranchers have been at the heart of our work. We are obsessed with helping them and their land flourish. Our research, consultation and educational programs are all designed to encourage and support farmers and ranchers. This history brings us to where we are today."
Noble has committed its 14,000 acres of grazing lands and livestock operations, located in southern Oklahoma, to provide education and demonstration for supporting others’ transitions from conventional to regenerative management. These acres will reveal both challenges and successes in Noble’s own regenerative journey, which Noble will openly share with others to benefit their own experiences.
Noble’s regenerative programming will aim to do more than build technical knowledge. It will provide science-based study of the economics of regenerative land stewardship in grazing animal production.
“Noble was established to understand and apply the principles of land stewardship and soil conservation so that the land remains productive for future generations,” said Susan Brown, chair of the board of directors of Noble’s governing body (The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation) and granddaughter of Noble’s founder, Lloyd Noble. “Part of this equation is making sure that farmers and ranchers are profitable so they can continue to reinvest in the land and its restoration. Otherwise, at some future point, we will have neither the land productivity to provide for our food needs nor the farmers and ranchers available to do so.”