Jonathan Lundgren – Regenerative agriculture much more profitable than extractive ag?!


Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, ex USDA scientist turner farmer, proved the profitability of regenerative grain farms and he is now working on almonds and livestock.


What is the role of science and scientists in the regenerative agriculture revolution? Why are there so few peer-reviewed papers on regen ag? Why does it seem like advanced regenerative farmers are doing things which are absolutely impossible according to traditional academia? 

Host Koen van Seijen has a riveting conversation with agro ecologist, entomologist, farmer and beekeeper, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren. He is the director of the nonprofit Regenerative Agriculture Research Center, the ECDYSIS Foundation, and the CEO of Blue Dasher farm in South Dakota. 

Impacts on Soil

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, initially, did not see himself as a “soil guy” as he studied entomology, which required him to focus on insects. He previously worked at USDA where he realized the impact of his studies on the soil. 

“Everything that I was doing was being affected by them and everything that they were doing was being affected by my study group. It became clear that we’re at a phase in agricultural science where these disciplines —specific sorts of questions that the driven agricultural science for so long —are less relevant. Now, we need to figure out where all of our little sub-disciplines fit within the grander system.” – Dr. Jonathan Lundgren

Becoming a Farmer

Dr. Lundgren left the USDA and decided to set up a foundation and become a farmer himself. He discovered that farmers are farming spectacularly in the regenerative sphere, which contradicts scientific journals. Scientists are disconnecting with helping farmers for the longest time.

Dr. Lundgren wondered about the future of food production in regenerative agriculture. He tried to change the system when he was working for the government. There was so much bureaucracy and political clout which made him decide to leave the scientific community and take action. 

“These farmers had developed systems that were very successful, but they were thinking about it as a system rather than component research.” – Dr. Jonathan Lundgren

Future of Food Production

The science that will support regenerative agriculture must come from grassroots. He proudly shares how he and his team are revolutionizing science to create an agricultural macro revolution. One of his biggest findings is that these farms have zero need for pesticides. 

There are also daily struggles in the farm:

“How to manage vegetation without tillage or agrochemicals. We’re farming our annual crops directly into perennial warm-season grasses, which is, again, one of those rules that we threw out the window. So we’re using two tools that are well adapted to our environment, which are fire and grazing and, of course, vegetation competition.” – Dr. Jonathan Lundgren

Commentary On the Scientific Community

Dr. Lundgren gave a shocking overview on how they define success in the scientific community: just counting how many papers scientists publish in journals. The hope is to have scientists that ask the right questions and will conduct research that will directly benefit farmers, just like what he did during one of his researches. 

“I changed the whole focus of our research program. It’s like what we’re doing is wrong. We’re losing what’s special about these farmers and these farmers are the actual leaders, not the scientists.” – Dr. Jonathan Lundgren

To hear more about Dr. Jonathan Lundgren and his amazing work on for regenerative agriculture, download and listen to this episode!

Guest Bio:


Dr. Lundgren is an agroecologist, Director ECDYSIS Foundation, and CEO for Blue Dasher Farm. He received his PhD in Entomology from the University of Illinois in 2004, and was a top scientist with USDA-ARS for 11 years.

Lundgren’s research and education programs focus on assessing the ecological risk of pest management strategies and developing long-term solutions for regenerative food systems.

Lundgren received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering by the White House. Lundgren has served as an advisor for national grant panels and regulatory agencies on pesticide and GM crop risk assessments. Lundgren has written 107 peer-reviewed journal articles, authored the book “Relationships of Natural Enemies and Non-prey Foods”, and has received more than $3.4 million in grants. 


Blue Dasher Farm

Ecdysis Foundation

Washington Post: Was a USDA scientist muzzled because of his bee research?

Scientific Paper Regenerative agriculture: merging farming and natural resource conservation profitably


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