This year, California farmer interest in healthy soils investment surged. Despite disruptions caused by the global pandemic, farmers and ranchers acted on a record year of funding and submitted nearly 600 applications for the Healthy Soils Program.
$22 million in grants was awarded to over 300 farmers and ranchers to support their adoption of a variety of healthy soils practices. This means that over 30,000 acres across the state will be drawing down more carbon dioxide, reducing net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Check out the full list of awarded projects.
The Healthy Soils Program is a powerful tool to reach the state’s ambitious climate goals while supporting a resilient food system, protecting agricultural jobs and stimulating the economy. Cultivating soil health not only leads to reduced GHG emissions, but also improves crop yields, drought and flood tolerance, and air and water quality. Many farmers are already experiencing these benefits as they experiment with different ways to increase carbon in the soil and keep it there.
The Cloverleaf Farm in Solano County received a Healthy Soils Program grant to support experimenting with no-till practices. Traditional tilling, used to prepare fields for planting and to reduce weed pressure, disturbs the soil and disrupts plant root structures and the complex microbial and fungal web that nourishes plants. Limiting or eliminating tillage keeps soil carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere. The farm also used other soil building practices including compost application and planting cover crops and native plants that also provide valuable habitat for beneficial bugs. Check out their profile here.
The Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians in San Diego County grow 160 acres of avocados and citrus in addition to a 40-acre vegetable operation. They received a grant to plant cover crops as a way to eliminate tilling practices. The cover crops will do the work that mechanical tilling traditionally achieves by out-competing invasive weeds while building soil health and adding an organic form of nitrogen to fertilize the crops. They are saving money on diesel fuel by making fewer tractor passes and reducing the CO2 from tailpipe emissions. Read more about their story here.
“It’s all in the title. Healthier soils grow healthier food for our communities to eat.” -Miguel Hernandez
Check out dozens of other farmer climate leader stories here.