Enhancing Biodiversity: The Critical Role of Grazing 

Biodiversity is more than a buzzword. It is a critical component of shaping the future of healthy and productive working lands. At AgSpire, we believe that understanding and harnessing biodiversity is not merely about compliance; it’s about adopting a transformative approach that elevates the land’s productivity and resilience for future generations.  

In the realm of ranching, biodiversity encompasses a range of plant species, soil organisms, insects, and wildlife, each playing a vital role in nutrient cycling, soil health, and forage quality. This rich diversity is an ally in building robust grazing systems, capable of withstanding environmental stresses. More importantly, it directly contributes to improved herd health and overall productivity.  

As our team develops programs related to grazing management and advises ranchers, here are four ways we can contribute to enhanced biodiversity – and deliver positive impact for ranchers: 

> The Synergy of Grazing and Plant Growth 

For grazing management to truly be effective, it must be underpinned by a deep understanding of the plant growth patterns for all the species present in the field. By aligning grazing intensity and timing with these plant growth patterns, ranchers can see a more a more consistent supply of forage while also promoting the long-term health of plant communities.  

When visiting a ranch, our technical advisors help analyze current plant community types to understand their growth cycles and timing, and using this knowledge to make informed grazing decisions. 

AgSpire advisor works with a rancher to analyze his pasture and plan for improvements.

> Rest, Rotation, and Resilience 

While rest and rotation are commonly associated with forage management, they are equally crucial for nurturing biodiversity. Properly timed rest periods allow for the establishment of new plant communities, vital for maintaining a diverse ecosystem. Appropriate rest can be challenging, especially during extreme weather conditions, but the long-term resilience and health of biodiverse grazing acres are invaluable assets during tough times. 

> Rangeland Succession: A Strategic Approach 

Rangeland succession – or the replacement of unhealthy plant communities by another – is just like managing a herd’s genetics; it requires a hands-on, strategic approach with long term vision. This process can significantly impact your land and herd – for better or worse – and therefore, must be guided intentionally. Practices like diverse seeding, controlled burns, and managed grazing are key to fostering a variety of plant species that support a healthier ecosystem. 

> Legumes: A Natural Boost to Your Grazing Lands 

Incorporating legumes pasturelands is a game-changer. These nitrogen-fixing plants enhance soil fertility, reduce fertilizer needs, and provide high-quality forage for livestock. By incorporating legumes, a rancher is not only improving soil health but also boosting the protein intake for their cattle.

About the Author

Senior Sustainability Project Manager

Drew Slattery, with his extensive experience in the regenerative agriculture and corporate sustainability realm, is committed to enhancing the impact on natural resources and the climate across global supply chains.

Throughout his career, Drew has partnered with leading agricultural and food brands to evolve their supply chains for greater sustainability and reduced carbon footprints. This has given him a broad range of expertise – from remote sensing, to ag media, producer  engagement, behavior change programming, and corporate sustainability – and experience working with the beef, dairy, row crop, and specialty crop sectors.

4 Considerations for Successful Farm-Level Interventions

In the private sector to date, more than 50 US-based food and agriculture companies have set rigorous greenhouse gas reduction targets – leading to a widespread focus on reducing the largest portion of their footprints: Scope 3 emissions. These include all upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions that fall outside of a company’s direct control, typically within their upstream or downstream supply chains.

As the largest source of emissions, Scope 3 also offers the greatest opportunity for reductions. For the ag and food companies we work with, farm-level interventions hold immense potential both for reductions and removals. Despite this potential, successful farm-level interventions can be complex and challenging to design and implement. Many companies have conducted supply shed hotspot analyses and even identified strategic interventions to implement – but are struggling to truly generate results on the ground.

At AgSpire, we drive success down to the ground level with a simple approach: putting the producer first. By using that as our guide, we are able to amplify and accelerate results – delivering benefit throughout the supply chain, from the farmers and ranchers on the ground, to the companies we work with, and ultimately to our environment at large.

When designing a farm-level program, here are four ways in which putting the producer first can lead to measurable progress: 

  1. Get Regional: The US EPA currently breaks ecosystem management into 12 ecoregions across the continental US – each with different climates, weather patterns, soils, water sources, and plant species. As such, growing corn in South Dakota, for example, looks very different than growing corn in Kansas. In a Scope 3 program, this may mean approaching growers in different regions with entirely customized opportunities, practices, and incentives – based on the context, markets, and ecosystems of those localities. This regional approach helps accelerate adoption and lead to better outcomes.
  2. Design for Resilience: It is imperative to remember that implementing practice changes of any kind creates financial risk for the farmer – including additional input costs or investments in new equipment or other infrastructure, for example. This risk can create challenges for program recruitment, enrollment, and even program retention. That said, designing programs that simultaneously reduce GHG emission and create on-farm benefit through a positive return on investment in the form of improved profitability, enhanced farm resilience, shrunken costs, or greater productivity go a long way to creating producer motivation and interest.
  3. Build with Empathy: Despite the credibility that comes with rigorous models, standards, protocols, and verification practices, these requirements don’t always align with how a producer runs their operation. For example, not all producers keep 3-5 years’ worth of records on file at any given time at the level needed to enter the most rigorous carbon programs. Understanding these realities and adapting program requirements helps lower barriers that might keep an interested farmer or rancher from participating or changing practices.
  4. Provide Support: On-the-ground success is dependent on helping connect producers with the right practices, programs, and incentive mix for their operation. Providing producers with technical assistance to successfully implement the practices and financial assistance needed to cover the financial burden of tackling the change can be a significant motivator for participation and on-going retention.

About the Author

Director of Carbon & Ecosystem Service Markets

Zach promotes company strategy and client success by assisting industry groups, food and ag companies, and farmers on their sustainability goals. Zach has worked on carbon issues for stakeholders across the agriculture value chain and in a wide array of commodities, developing expertise in farm-level carbon accounting, MRV platform usage, voluntary and compliance market schemes, science-based targets, ESG reporting, and strategic planning.

Understanding Carbon Intensity Scores

Carbon intensity (CI) is simply defined as carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy. While the definition might be simple, figuring a CI score is anything but simple.

Carbon dioxide makes up the majority of greenhouse gas emissions across all industries, including the agricultural sector. Carbon Intensity Scores allow us to quantify and compare the emissions associated with producing, distributing, and consuming a product or activity. A higher score indicates a higher carbon footprint.

Ascertaining for a unit of feedstock produced and crediting the correct amount of carbon sequestered is a complex task with a high level of uncertainty. Many data points need to be measured, recorded, and verified to develop an accurate CI number. MRV platforms help assist in collecting and compiling the data necessary to calculate CI numbers efficiently and accurately.

On a farm, a CI Score accounts for all up- and downstream emissions per unit of output – including that of the practices and inputs used. In particular, scores are affected by fertilizer and chemical application types and rates, on-farm energy consumption per unit area, and yield per unit area. While each farm and system vary, the fertilizer and chemical application types and rates contribute the most to a CI score, on average.

With agriculture systems serving as the origin for so many of our products, this has huge implications for CI Scores off the farm as well. With our in-house expertise in MRV, we are helping companies better understand their carbon footprints and the right strategies to reduce or sequester emissions.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows that regenerative agriculture can have a positive impact on CI scores.

> A study published in the journal Nature found that regenerative agriculture could help to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 percent. Read More >>>

> Another study published in the journal Science, found that regenerative agriculture could help to improve water quality and increase biodiversity. Read More >>>

The environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture are numerous and stretch throughout the value chain.

Contact AgSpire to learn more about your Carbon Intensity Score and how to unlock the potential of regenerative agriculture, email info@agspire.com.

About the Author

Senior Conservation Agronomist

Derek has over 15 years of experience working with landowners and corporations to design, manage, and validate research trials, maximizing short- and long-term crop outputs. With a continued passion for conservation and the natural ecosystem, he is focused on the natural symbiosis organisms have with one another in the environment. Always eager to learn, he is continuously expanding his knowledge of soil health, chemistry, and pest disease management.

Derek holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from South Dakota State University and a master’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. He is also a Certified Crop Advisor and Technical Service Provider through NRCS.

AgSpire Launches The SustainAg Network

AgSpire unveiled our latest initiative – The SustainAg Network – which connects farmers and ranchers who are interested in conservation, sustainability, and regenerative practices with the programs and market opportunities that incentivize and reward those positive practices.

“As the implementing partner on multiple USDA Climate-Smart Commodity Grants and other grants, and with clients leading the way in launching on-the-ground sustainability projects, AgSpire is uniquely positioned to bring opportunities to producers and partner with them to deliver meaningful results for their operations and the environment,” said AgSpire CEO, Aline DeLucia.

AgSpire offers holistic, end-to-end sustainability services, to drive real progress on the land through implementation of regenerative agriculture practices. With this formalized network of producers, we will be able to accelerate adoption of practices, matching interested farmers and ranchers with opportunities that advance sustainability goals for our partners.

Enabling On-the-Ground Impact

“The producers we’ve met with are eager to invest in their land, improve their natural resources, and implement new and better management practices. The programs offered within The SustainAg Network help producers do just that – giving them the resources and technical assistance needed to succeed,” said Ryan Eichler, Director of Producer Programs at AgSpire.

In his capacity at AgSpire, Ryan is responsible for growing the reach of the network. He kicked off this effort last week at the 100th annual meeting of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, meeting with ranchers around the region. With our soft launch, more than 50 farmers and ranchers in the Northern Great Plains have already indicated their interest to join The SustainAg Network. Our team of advisors will work with those producers to learn more about their operations, providing guidance on the programs they could qualify for and that would be most beneficial on the ground.

Realizing Real Outcomes

Our initial programs are heavily focused on grazing systems, forage, specialty oilseeds, and climate-smart corn in the Great Plains and Midwest, and are expected to impact over four-million acres over the next five years. Our commitment to thoughtful program design, MMRV, and successful on-the-ground implementation results in measurable and claimable environmental outcomes, including captured and stored carbon, improved water usage and quality, enhanced biodiversity, and healthier soils.

“With the interest that The SustainAg Network has garnered through this initial launch, we are well on our way toward meeting our first-year enrollment targets for our program offerings – with many more producers looking for additional opportunities and programs to participate in,” Ryan continued.

To learn more about The SustainAg Network, our services, and how to partner with our network:

Supporting Pollinators with Regenerative Agriculture

As crops are planted and start to emerge across the country, the critical role of pollinators are ever more evident. These beneficial insects play a critical role in our global ecosystems – and especially in our agriculture and food systems.

Regenerative practices like cover crops, diverse seedings in pastures, and insectary strips are ways that farmers and ranchers can help support pollinators, providing food and habitat for them to thrive.

AgSpire’s Dale Strickler works with farmers and ranchers around the country to find the best management practices to build resilience, conserve natural resources, and improve sustainability. In this Mini Podcast episode, Dale shares more about supporting pollinators – and some of the other benefits that these management practices offer to our agricultural lands.

YouTube >>> How Regenerative Agriculture Supports Pollinators with Dale Strickler

Designing for Drought Resilience

by Dale Strickler 

Less than 100 years ago, the Dust Bowl wreaked havoc on our nation’s farms and ranches, with drastic and lasting impacts across the land. While this prolonged time of drought underscored just how important water is – we also learned about the critical role that agriculture management plays in capturing and using rainfall when it does come for improved climate resilience.

Capturing Rainfall  

Research by Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service found that, on average, only 18% of rainfall is being captured by crops and used to grow food. A staggering 59% evaporates, while 23% falls prey to run off. The year that study was conducted, Oklahoma farmers produced an average of 33 bushels of wheat on only 6.2 inches of soil moisture, after factoring in what was lost to run off and evaporation. 

These figures help us understand that practices that improve water infiltration would allow farmers and ranchers to capture and use five times as much naturally falling moisture.

Of course, better utilizing rainfall would have an incredible impact on yields – but there are also important co-benefits for our environment and society.

Improved water infiltration lessens the dependence on additional irrigation, preserving fresh water sources for needed drinking water. At the same time, we see decreased run-off and erosion, keeping rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water cleaner.

As we collectively asses water risks and their role in resilience, geographically-specific interventions to improve water infiltration are critical.

A Case Study 

For inspiration on designing for drought resilience, let’s look at one of the driest and hottest places: Al Baydha, Saudi Arabia. There, the average rainfall is just 2.5”, while temperatures can climb to 120°F in the summer.

In 2011, a project was launched to design terraces, turning the bare rock and dirt into a thriving pasture for grazing. Capitalizing on every drop of rain, the landscape was transformed in just a few short years. 

 Lessons Learned 

While terraces aren’t the solution for every farm or ranch facing drought conditions, this project inspires us as to what is possible. There are hundreds of other techniques that farmers and ranchers can deploy to capture the full benefit of their natural rainfall. Some of these techniques include:

  • Eliminate Soil Tillage: Tillage exposes the soil to the pounding effects of rainfall, which leads to compaction layers at the soil surface that impedes the further downward movement of water.
  • Leverage Crop Residue: Another major step is to leave as much residue on the soil surface as possible, to cushion the impact of falling raindrops and reduce erosion. 
  • Utilize Cover Crops: A third major action to benefit infiltration is the replacement of fallow periods with cover crops. While cover crops use more moisture during their active growth than a soil that is being fallowed, the difference is not as great as many might expect.

Especially when used together, these practices help compound rates of water infiltration over time. For example, even after termination of the cover crop, the much higher rate of infiltration from the cover crop residue will make each successive rainfall event more efficient, if the mulch is left intact and not tilled under. After they decay, cover crop roots can leave large macropores in the soil that act as easy entry points for rainwater to enter the profile.  

These solutions, along with many more in a regenerative toolbelt, help farmers and ranchers maximize the benefit of natural rainfall – which lessens the environmental impacts on aquifers, rivers, lakes, and local drinking water.

Next Steps and Learn More

To learn more about the right water-wise management solutions to reach your business and land goals, Contact Us.

For Companies: Water stewardship throughout the value chain is a key part of climate resilience and action. The practices outlined in this article provide a plethora of benefits – from improved water infiltration as mentioned, to carbon sequestration and soil health, to enhanced biodiversity. Our team helps drive results toward these commitments, finding the right solutions to meet your goals.

For Farmers: Capturing and using rainfall to its maximum benefit has lasting benefit, economically and agronomically. Our landowner advisors help assess your land and goals, creating a customized plan to optimize water availability for crops and lessen downstream water impacts.

Additional Resources:

  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2017/june/farmers-employ-strategies-to-reduce-risk-of-drought-damages/
  • https://www.climatehubs.usda.gov/hubs/midwest/topic/sare-resource-cultivating-climate-resilience-farms-and-ranches

About the Author


Landowner Advisor

With more than 30 years of experience in agronomy, pasture management, and soil and crop advising, Dale brings an incredible depth and breadth of knowledge to AgSpire’s work.

With a keen curiosity to find innovative solutions, combined with a thorough understanding of the realities of modern production agriculture, Dale is especially adept in developing highly effective management systems in challenging climates and soil types

He has also authored three books, including The Drought Resilient Farm, Managing Pasture, and The Complete Guide to Restoring Your Soil, which was named a top ten farming book for 2021 by Modern Farmer.

Agriculture’s Environmental Solutions

by Jared Knock

News headlines tell us of rising food costs and shortages, rising global temperatures, changing weather patterns, biodiversity loss, depleted soil, and clean water shortages. 

But today, on National Ag Day, we want to share a different headline: 

Agriculture is part of the solution. 

Everyday, farmers and ranchers around the world work in the soil – hands-on with our most precious resources and the building blocks of life. Because of this shear proximity to nature, farmers and ranchers have a dynamic relationship and important impact on natural systems.  

Unlike the finite stocks of copper, lithium, or cobalt, the stocks of agriculture can replenish and grow over time. With careful management, farmers and ranchers can add practices that promote stronger ecosystem health – while also building their own business resilience. This means that those hands working in the soil have the potential to regenerate our natural resources; clean our water and air; and provide abundant, nutritious, and diverse foods for a growing population. 

Earlier this month, the AgSpire team talked with farmers from around the country at the largest farmer-led trade show in the country. Time and time again, we heard from those farmers about wanting to find nature-based solutions to care for their land and optimize its potential – not just in the near term, but for generations to come. 

Through techniques like interseeding, cover cropping, reduced and no tillage, and holistic grazing, we see farm- and ranch-level benefits like:  

  • Improved soil health and fertility, which lessens our need for synthetic, emissions-intensive fertilizers 
  • Better water retention and filtration, which leads to drought resilience in arid environments and better down-stream water quality in wetter environments 
  • Enhanced biodiversity from the soil to the sky, supporting pollinators, wildlife, and complex ecosystems 

We know that there is immense potential in our industry – and we are working across the agriculture value chain to unlock that potential and highlight the solutions that are inherent within agriculture. 

We often think that these solutions all start with a seed. But, in reality, it all starts with the farmer or rancher. On National Ag Day, we celebrate these farmers and ranchers – and will continue our work to ensure they are part of the solution. 

Learn more about our work across the ag value chain to advance agriculture’s environmental solutions.

About the Author


VP, Business Development

Jared has 25 years of experience on the land as a part-owner of a diversified livestock and crop farm in Eastern South Dakota, raising cattle, sheep, hogs, corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, alfalfa, rye, and cover crops. Through the lessons learned on his own land, Jared is passionate about equipping fellow farmers and ranchers to enable greater resilience and functionality through positive land management and grazing practices.

Jared’s expertise has been further honed through his background in livestock genetics, seed sales, business development, and as co-host of the Roots + Ruminants Podcast. Jared has a degree in Animal Science from South Dakota State University and China Agricultural University in Beijing.


2022 In Review: Scaling Regenerative Agriculture as We Grow

2022 was a year of growth at AgSpire.

Since our founding two years ago, our team has diligently worked to expand and amplify positive land use practices. We believe that agriculture-based solutions and land stewardship hold significant potential for the health of our planet. Soil health, water and air quality, biodiversity, wildlife and pollinator habitat, and bio sequestration of carbon are just a few of the many outcomes of positive land use practices resulting in shared societal benefits.

In 2022, we were able to make huge strides in seeing our approach take root and our impact grow. As our client and project portfolio grew, we’ve helped implement positive land use practices on a total of 500,000 acres. With personalized assistance to producers and a deep knowledge of public and private incentive programs, we are able to see successful implementation.

AgSpire's Year in Review: expanding our reach, new projects, and new partners.

Building Our Capacity

One of our biggest priorities in 2022 was to grow our internal capacity, building a team that is rooted in the agriculture community and committed to positive land use changes. The AgSpire team grew from two at the beginning of 2022, to eight at the end of the year – with additional team members joining us in the new year.

We welcomed our first CEO in June. Aline DeLucia comes to AgSpire with diverse experiences in the agriculture industry – from nutrition and animal science to business management and stakeholder engagement – providing well-rounded and pragmatic leadership for AgSpire and our clients.

Joining the business development, operations, and management functions are Julia Andrus as Director of Marketing & Communications and Christian Lovell as a Program Manager. They join our AgSpire veterans Jared Knock and Vivian Georgalas in expanding AgSpire’s reach and ability to serve our clients’ sustainability needs.

We also added to our technical expertise, welcoming Dale Strickler, Derek Ver Helst, and Matthew Delbar. Each brings deep understanding and experience in conservation, grazing and crop management, and regenerative agriculture implementation.

AgSpire's team grew in 2022.

Forging New Partnerships

 AgSpire is proud to partner with organizations across the agriculture industry to build resilience into our agriculture and food systems.

This year, we were selected as a project partner for NGOs, universities, businesses, and other service providers under multiple USDA-funded Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects. Through these projects, AgSpire will impact an estimated 4.3 million acres over the next 5 years and will empower farmers and ranchers to make their operations more resilient, diversified, and holistically managed.

Expanding Our Advisory Services

Our clients have sustainability goals – and we provide sustainability strategy development, expertise in conservation practice implementation, and knowledge of public and private incentive programs to drive results to meet those goals.

In 2022, we launched new projects with new and existing clients, developing and testing strategies that produce real results. We work with our clients to conceptualize nature-based solutions, providing direction to advance their sustainability goals. Our technical landowner advisors then work directly with producers to successfully implement that strategy and achieve quantifiable outcomes for the land.

Looking back on the year, we are thankful for our clients and partners who have trusted us to advance sustainability and steward the land. The AgSpire team wishes you a Happy New Year – and we look froward to continuing to scale regenerative agriculture in 2023.

Roots + Ruminants: New Income Sources for Farmers

Roots + Ruminants Podcast hosts Jared Knock and Justin Fruechte chat with guest Vivian Georgalas about upcoming new public and private programs that may be available for farmers to boost their income.

> Apple Podcasts

> Spotify

Amplifying Positive Land Use Practices through Partnerships

USDA announces Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects

(BROOKINGS, SD, Wednesday, September 14, 2022) AgSpire, an organization that amplifies the implementation of positive land use practices through handson, customized plans with farmers and
ranchers, has been named project partner on multiple USDA Partnerships for ClimateSmart Commodities projects. As a part of these projects, AgSpire will continue their mission to provide customized solutions to farmers, ranchers, and landowners, and empower them to help make their operations more resilient, diversified, and holistically managed through information and expertise.

“Today’s announcement shows USDA’s commitment to advancing adoption and implementation of climatesmart practices, and we are thrilled to be part of that journey. AgSpire will bring its expertise in
conservation practice implementation to assist producers with adoption of practices that can create positive land use outcomes. Collaborations and partnerships are key to achieving the ultimate goal of creating shared societal benefits through the land for generations to come,” said Aline DeLucia, CEO of AgSpire.

With these projects, AgSpire will have the opportunity to touch over 4.3 million acres through working directly with producers to create tailored management plans.  Powered by landowner advisors with
regional knowledge and expertise, AgSpire is dedicated to supporting producers as they work toward impactful outcomes that begin with changes on the land, and these projects will continue that mission.

For more information on the USDA Partnerships for ClimateSmart Commodities, please visit https://www.usda.gov/climatesolutions/climatesmartcommodities.

Additional Reading: