- Author: Dana Brady
In Spring 2019, one of the owners from Alves Dairy reached out about applying for an Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) grant through CDFA. Only one other project like this in the area exists, so tackling this sort of large-scale manure management project was exciting!
The CDFA AMMP Program provides financial assistance for the implementation of manure management practices in California, which will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. This grant program is open to all livestock operations, although dairies are the most common applicants. A total of 58 projects have been funded since the grant program started in 2017, resulting in 716,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents reduced in 5 years. These projects can fall under four general categories, pasture-based management, solid separation, alternative manure treatment and storage, and conversion from flush to scrape.
The Alves Family started their Dairy in the 1920's and have sustained their operation in the county ever since. The four brothers, Greg, Rich, Gary and Mike, and the next generation, Chris and Scott, share responsibilities for the operation, where they have game birds, corn, alfalfa, orchards and their dairy, with each partner taking on a role to make the whole farm run smoothly. The family is very involved in the community and support local projects and organizations as well.
The Alves originally came to UCCE with this idea because they wanted to improve manure management practices on the dairy and reduce their overall methane emissions. Greg, one of the brothers and owners, spent a large part of his time cleaning manure from the lagoons, taking time away from other important projects on the dairy. With this in mind, we constructed a plan to hopefully make his life, and others on the dairy, a lot easier and achieve significant environmental benefits.
The Alves applied under the solid separation category to install a manure separator, a concrete slab and walls, and a new pump that would replace an old diesel pump. The separator filtered out the manure solids, resulting in nutrient rich solid manure to be spread onto fields and reduce the amount of time the solids spend in anaerobic lagoons, creating methane gases. This project will also reduce a substantial amount of greenhouse gases due to not needing to use the excavator to move manure around, or as many truck loads to export the material.
On January 1, 2020, the project started and the Alves hit the ground running. All of the partners contributed their own time and energy to this project to make it such a success. Over the past six months, the Alves completely finished their project a year ahead of schedule, and have just recently completed their final verification with CDFA. The verification was done remotely this year and consisted of a Zoom call with Greg to answer some questions, talk about his experience and show off his finished project.
Greg has already seen the both environmental and personal benefits from the separator project and hopes to continue making the dairy more sustainable in the future.
- Author: Shulamit Shroder
Congrats! You've been awarded a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Healthy Soils Program. Now what?
Once your grant has been executed and before you implement any of your practices, you need to take soil samples to measure the soil's baseline organic matter content. You will need to take soil samples 3 times over the course of your project. You should take the soil samples at the same time of the year every year. You should not take soil samples right after major rain events or right after you've applied soil amendments like manure.
How do you take soil samples? Here's the CDFA's protocol:
First of all, here's what you need to bring to the field:
- Plastic buckets
- Soil sample bags or one-gallon freezer storage bags (one bag per sample)
- Clipboard and papers for recording
- Permanent marker
- Straight shovel or soil probe
Where should you take your samples?
You should check your grant agreement to see how many soil samples you said you would take. Usually, it's 1 sample per APN or per field.
Next, mark an area of 30' by 30'. Take samples from 9-10 locations within that sampling unit. You can pick your locations by either:
- Walking in a zig-zag pattern
- Dividing the field into 9 grids of 10' by 10' and collecting one sample from each grid
Once you've chosen a location, here's how you can take a sample:
- Remove any vegetation, litter, or crop residue
- If you use a shovel:
- Use the shovel to dig a small hole 8” deep. From the side of the hole, take a vertical rectangular slice of soil 8” deep and 2” thick. Remove any extra soil to ensure that the sample is the same width at the top and bottom of the slice.
- If you use a soil probe:
- Twist the probe into the ground until the probe is 8” deep.
- Place sample into clean bucket
- Go to the next location and repeat until you finish all 9-10 sampling locations.
- Mix soils in the bucket and pour at least 6 cups/1 lb of soil into the sample bag.
- Label the sample bag with the APN, sampling date, and farm name.
Now that you have your sample, send it to a soil lab nearby that uses UC methods. Tell the lab that you'll need results for the soil's organic matter content.
For more information, reach out to your local climate smart agriculture specialist. We can help you take your soil samples and find a local soil lab. For more information, read through the grant manual: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/docs/2020-HSPIncentives-GAPManual.pdf
- Author: Alli Fish
Hedgerows are an approved practice under California Department of Agriculture's Healthy Soils Grant Program. That means, growers are eligible to receive grant funding for planting hedgerows. But what exactly are the benefits of hedgerows and why are they worth planting? As a perennial planting it can have immediate impacts on the soil, but what else? The answer lies large in the pollinators and beneficial insects they attract.
The most basic definition of a hedgerow is dense vegetation planted in a linear design. Perennial grasses, shrubs, and even short trees are all candidates for hedgerow plantings, provided they meet the conditions of the local climate and soil. Growers plant hedgerows to achieve one or more of the following desired outcomes:
- To increase habitat for pollinator and beneficial insect populations
- To create a living barrier or fence
- To reduce chemical drift or odor movement
- To intercept airborne particulate matter
- To act as a low windbreak or reduce dust
- To increase carbon storage in biomass and soils
- To provide food, shelter, and shade for aquatic organisms in nearby aquatic habitats
All of these benefits make the case for planting hedgerows on any agricultural operation. In Ventura County, avocado growers stand to see a compelling case for hedgerow plantings with particular attention to pollination services.
There are many different pollinators who visit avocado flowers, from native bees to flies to honey bees. Some come in the daytime, others visit at night. In the likelihood that honey bees and other pollinators will continue to decline, it is imperative to study the importance of native pollinators on key crops and identify ways to increase habitat for resident populations (NRC 2007; Nordhaus 2011; PHTF 2015; Koh et al. 2016; Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys 2019; DiBartolomeis et al. 2019; Garibaldi et al. 2013). This information not only helps the pollinator populations thrive, but helps avocado growers acquire free increased pollination services for fruitful trees. Several researchers have published accounts of increased pollinator diversity and numbers in hedgerow and field edge planting studies across various agricultural systems (Heller et al. 2019; Long and Anderson 2010; Long et al. 2017; Williams et al. 2015).
In Ventura County, we are seeing some fascinating and relevant research around the impact of hedgerows on pollinators in avocado orchards. A collaborative research project involving Dr. Ben Faber, Avocado Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County, and Dr. Gordon Frankie, professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley and lead investigator of the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, seeks to understand long-term impacts of hedgerows on pollinators of avocado trees. The project, which began in 2014 with three participating avocado ranches, has indicated increased pollinator activity, increased native bee populations, and increased diversity of species with the presence of hedgerow plantings (Frankie, Faber et al. 2020). The results indicate the importance of diversity of pollinator species, not just the honeybee, to avocados. In continuing this research, the team seeks to address the unanswered questions of which pollinators are the most effective at pollinating avocados and which are the most effective at influencing fruit set. A particularly exciting and novel aspect of this project is looking at whether or not there are nocturnal pollinators visiting California avocados. Nocturnal pollinators have been well documented in New Zealand (Pattemore et al, 2018), but none have been yet recorded in California avocados.
Maintaining hedgerows is critical to providing additional habitat for an abundance of pollinators. Creating and maintaining that hedgerow and for which pollinators can be a daunting task to embark on. Luckily for avocado growers, Dr. Frankie and Dr. Faber's team are working with Southern California growers to develop a pollinator garden manual. The manual will provide clear pictures of key pollinators and key plant species that pollinators are drawn to. Detailed imagery, descriptions, and maintenance tips will help make the decision making around planting a hedgerow much easier.
Speaking of selections, there are key plants that are drought-tolerant, easy to maintain, and well-suited for Ventura County's climate. See the table below for some ideas.
We seek to increase biodiversity, build soil health, and reduce energy use in our agricultural systems to improve our resiliency to climate change impacts, pests, and disease. To keep farming in our families and in our futures. Planting hedgerows is good for the pollinators, which is good for the bottom line and long-term success of the operation.
If you are an avocado grower interested in learning more about the pollinator research project, please contact Dr. Gordon Frankie at the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab email@example.com.
Interested in planting hedgerows on your property? You may be able to qualify for a grant through CDFA's Healthy Soils Grant Program to plant hedgerows. Please contact Jamie Whiteford with the Ventura County Resource Conservation District at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to apply. For those in other areas, Technical Assistance providers are able to discuss the values of hedgerows and funding opportunities for installing them in other agricultural situations: http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/Programs/ClimateSmartAg/TechnicalAssistanceProviders/
DiBartolomeis, M., S. Kegley, P. Mineau, R. Radford, and K. Klein. 2019. An assessment of acute insecticide toxicity loading (AITL) of chemical pesticides used on agricultural land in the United States. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0220029. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220029.
Frankie, G., B. Faber, J. Pawelek, R. Thorp, R. Coville, C. Jadallah, E. Takele, S. I. Rios, T. Bean. 2020. Native Pollinators of California Avocado as Affected by Introduced Pollinator Gardens. International Society of Horticultural Sciences Congress. Acta Horticulturae.
Garibaldi, L.A., I. Steffan-Dewenter, R. Winfree, and 47 other authors. 2013. Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance. Science 339:1608-1611.
Heller, S., N. K. Joshi, T. Leslie, E. G. Rajotte and D. J. Biddinger. 2019. Diversified Floral Resource Plantings Support Bee Communities after Apple Bloom in Commercial Orchards. Scientific Reports 9 Article number: 17232.
Koh, I., Lonsdorf, E. V., Williams, N. M., Brittain, C., Isaacs, R., Gibbs, J., Ricketts, T. H. 2016. Modeling the status, trends, and impacts of wild bee abundance in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113:140–145.
Long, R. F. and J. Anderson. 2010. Establishing Hedgerows on Farms in California. UC ANR Pub 8390, Oakland, CA. http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=8390
Long, R., K. Garbach and L. Morandin. 2017. Hedgerow benefits align with food production and sustainability goals. California Agriculture 71:117-119. 10.3733/ca.2017a0020.
NRC. 2007. Status of Pollinators in North America. National Research Council of the National Academies. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.. 307 p.
Nordhaus, H. 2011. The Beekeeper's Lament. Harper Perennial, NY. 269p.
Pattemore, D., M. N. Buxton, B. T. Cutting, H. McBrydie, M. Goodwin, A. Dag. 2018. Low overnight temperatures associated with a delay in ‘Hass' avocado (Persea americana) female flower opening leading to nocturnal flowering. Journal of Pollination Ecology 23(14): 127-135.
PHTF: Pollinator Health Task Force. 2015. Pollinator Research Action Plan. The White House.
Sánchez-Bayo, F. and K. A. G. Wyckhuys. 2019. Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation 232:8-27.
Williams, N. M., K. L. Ward, N. Pope, R. Isaacs, J. Wilson, E. A. May, J. Ellis, J. Daniels, A. Pence, K. Ullmann, and J. Peters. 2015. Native wildflower plantings support wild bee abundance and diversity in agricultural landscapes across the United States. Ecological Applications 25: 2119–2131
- Author: Kristian M Salgado
It is widely known that the California Department Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has been providing financial initiatives to what is known as the “Healthy Soil Incentive Program” to California growers and ranchers. The mission is to allow applicants to implement conservation management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), and improve soil health. CDFA secretary Karen Ross stated that "Soil has the transformative power to help us stabilize our changing climate by capturing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere and storing them underground, through the assistance of living plants and microbes, that improve both the atmosphere and the soil."
This year CDFA's HSP received a total of 578 applications requesting $37.87 million, exceeding the $22 million available funds. With a maximum award of $100,000 per award, this grant was a great opportunity for California farming operations to pilot conservation management practices such as compost application, cover crops, nutrient management, and reduced till/no till for 3-10 years (depending on the practice) with minimal financial investment on their part. For the farmers and ranchers interested in the environmental benefits but unable to afford the cost of implementing these practices on their own, this program is a chance to try them firsthand.
The implementations of these conservation management practices are known to promote on-farm sustainability by building organic matter, encouraging nutrient cycling, increasing water holding capacity, reducing soil compaction, and lessening the need for synthetic fertilizers. In general, if you enrich your soil, it will boost the productivity of your cropping systems. However, every agricultural operation varies in its needs, the benefit it obtains from different conservation management practices depends on the location, size, crop rotation, irrigation system, and soil type. To enhance applicability according to site specific needs, CDFA allows applicants to choose from four categories, totaling 28 eligible practices selected from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) conservation practices standards.
Of the many subsequent application years, it was only in 2020 that IV growers and ranchers applied for this incentive program. Many of the IV farmers and agricultural operation applicants have been eagerly awaiting to hear who got awarded this year's CDFA Healthy Soil Incentive Program (HSP) grants. We would like to congratulate the thirteen (13) Imperial County applicants who received a total of $1,073,697.97 in funds. These thirteen award winning projects will have an estimated GHG emission reduction of 3,689.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to 797 passenger vehicles driven for one year. This is a groundbreaking achievement of our county and a huge jump from last year's HSP solicitation period, demonstrating that farming operations in this region are becoming very interested in adopting climate smart agricultural practices, provided funding availability. Ronnie Leimgruber, one of the thirteen Healthy Soils grant recipients says, “These climate smart agriculture incentive programs assist farmers in doing their part to try to sequester carbon and help sustain the environment. He further stated, “Being awarded this grant will allow me to apply more compost than I normally would.”
The UCCE Imperial County and ICFB partnered as technical assistance providers for the Healthy Soils Program and Alternative Manure Management Program for 2020. Together we conducted outreach, held a series of workshops and assisted with individual grant applications. The goal was to bring awareness to these Climate Smart Agriculture incentive programs and assist growers in applying and maximizing their chances of being awarded. Overall, Imperial County saw great progress from the prior year in the amount of applicants and awards. We are optimistic that these programs will continue to grow in future years, assisting local farmers in implementing additional farming practices that continue to benefit the environment. We encourage awarded applicants to contact us for any project implementation and data collection.
For more information, please contact Kristian Salgado at email@example.com or call at
- Author: Shulamit Shroder
Cover crops offer many potential benefits to growers. For example, they can improve water infiltration, reduce erosion, and provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
But how does a grower figure out which cover crop species would work best for the specific conditions and concerns on their field?
Of course, it's a good idea to start off by talking to a local NRCS planner or Cooperative Extension farm advisor. There is also plenty of information available on the internet and in printed publications about different cover crop species – but it's not all in one place.
To help growers and planners sift through the available information and pick which cover crops will both provide the benefits needed and will survive in the specific conditions of their fields, I have been working on a cover crop selection tool since this past July.
To determine if a given cover crop will work for a specific field, the tool asks the user to provide the following information:
- The USDA hardiness zone of the field. The USDA has divided the country into hardiness zones based on average winter temperatures. The lower the number of the hardiness zone, the colder the place.
- How much water the cover crop will receive. This is an estimate, especially for growers who will plant winter cover crops and depend entirely on the rain. If you can provide some irrigation water to the cover crops during their growing season, then include that in your estimate.
- When the cover crop will bloom. Most growers will terminate their annual cover crops during peak bloom, to maximize growth and bee forage but minimize the likelihood of the cover crop turning into a weed. If you are planning on planting annual crops into the cover crop residue, leave a couple weeks between cover crop termination and cash crop planting to allow the residues to decompose.
- How much salinity does your soil have? This can be a major inhibitor of plant growth and most cover crops cannot tolerate high or even moderate salinity levels.
- What is your soil's pH? Like cash crops, cover crops have a specific range of pH values in which they can thrive.
- Does your soil flood often? Some species can tolerate poor drainage conditions better than others.
The other questions in the tool ask the user to rank the importance of various cover crop benefits to their operation. The benefits listed on this tool are:
- Compaction reduction (improves water infiltration)
- Residue persistence (acts as a mulch)
- Erosion control
- Weed control
- Nematode control
- Attract pollinators
- Attract other beneficial insects
- Fix nitrogen
- Scavenge nitrogen (reduces nitrate leaching)
- Scavenge P and K (reduces nutrient contamination of waterways)
- Forage quality
To test the selection tool and see if it will provide good options for your operation, go to http://cekern.ucanr.edu/CDFA_Grants/HSP_Grants/Cover_Crop_Selection_Tool/.
Questions or comments? Reach out to Shulamit Shroder at firstname.lastname@example.org.