- Author: ESther Mosase
Solidarity Farms is one of the farms that have been proactive regarding soil health. Since purchasing the farm, the farm owners have focused on improving soil health. They have won a few grants geared towards improving soil health. They received the California Department of Food and Agriculture Healthy Soils Program (CDFA HSP) grant to spread compost and mulch. The program requires them to collect samples once a year to monitor soil organic matter; however, they went beyond the requirement to monitor other healthy soil parameters, including soil nutrients such as nitrogen. They applied for another grant from ZeroFoodPrint (ZFP) to continue implementing compost and mulch and adding other practices that they deemed essential. They won the award, and this document highlights some of their implemented healthy soils practices funded by the ZeroFoodPrint. The practices are estimated to reduce 108 metric tons CO2-equivalent when implemented as specified. Please refer to this link (www.comet-planner.com) to know how these estimates were generated.
Compost was applied to 10 acres at Solidarity Farms in the fourth quarter of 2020. They spread the compost using a compost spreader purchased through the ZeroFoodPrint funds (Figure 1). The compost (Figure 2) was purchased at San Pasqual Valley Soils, Escondido, CA.
Compost application improved the soil workability as the soil structure was greatly improved, and the organic matter content was increased. Also, crops such as squash which were not previously able to grow on that land, were now able to survive through harvest. Compost application also helped support the growth of cover crops, which could not survive before applying compost. The above benefits show that the practice was critical in improving soil health.
Cover Crop (CPS 340) - Add Non-Legume Seasonal Cover Crop to Irrigated Cropland
Solidarity Farms planted cover crops in a 10-acre portion of their farm to improve soil health, soil workability, and water infiltration. Cover cropping was very successful, and about 98% coverage of the soil by cover crops (Figure 3) was achieved. Cover crops were planted after composting to ensure a high rate of survival. A mixture of winter rye (25%), oat (24.5%), crimson clover (9.5%), peas (9.5%), and vetch (9.5%) was grown to improve soil nitrogen, reduce erosion and improve infiltration. The cover crop was planted during the rainy season to reduce the cost of irrigation. Termination of the cover crop was achieved by feeding it to the resident flock of chickens, which added manure into the soil, thus improving soil fertility. Also, as the chickens dug and scratched the ground, they mixed the topsoil, thus improving the soil workability and structure. The practice was crucial, and the growers were pleased with the improvements they saw in their farm.
Hedgerow Planting (CPS 422) - Replace a Strip of Cropland with 1 Row of Woody Plants
Hedgerow Planting was another practice that was implemented at Solidarity Farms. The hedgerow species included many native plants. The hedgerow plants were grown in three rows (Figure 4). Hedgerow 1a was 155 ft long with 31 plants - including seven manzanita trees; Hedgerow 1b was 185 ft long, containing 34 plants - including eight elderberry trees. Hedgerow 1c was 154 ft long with 32 plants - including seven honey mesquite trees. The native plants did very well compared to non-native species. The establishment rate was about 96%, as very few plants died. The growers reduced the risk of plant mortality by planting the trees in mesh-wire baskets (Figure 4) to protect them from damage by gophers.
It was observed that the survival rate of plants that were planted without the wire mesh was lower as gophers cut their roots. The plants were watered weekly in summer to support their growth and utilized rainwater during the rainy season. After one year of planting, hedgerow plants are thriving (Figure 5), and the expectation is that they will continue to grow to become a suitable pollinator habitat. The plants will also act as a windbreak to protect the farm from harsh winds.
Residue and Tillage Management - No-Till (CPS 329) - Intensive Till to No-Till or Strip-Till on Irrigated Cropland
The Residue and Tillage Management – No-Till was implemented on a 40-acre parcel at Solidarity Farms. Cover crop mix was planted in the no-till area (Figure 6) to increase soil organic matter content, capture and recycle or redistribute nutrients in the soil profile, promote biological nitrogen fixation, suppress weeds, reduce soil compaction, and manage soil moisture. Cover crops were thriving as 98% cover of the soil was achieved. The cover crops will significantly help to restore the soil and increase the organic matter in the soil. Low disturbance from no-till means that soil biology would be more active than before. A variety of crops could be planted, and less fertilizer would be used to support plant growth.
Tree/Shrub Establishment (CPS 612) – Conversion of Annual Cropland to a Farm Woodlot
Tree/shrub establishment was implemented in 1.25 acres distributed between the orchard and food forest. Implementing the practice was to transition to perennials and fruit production. The transition is advantageous as fruit trees would sequester carbon, and the soil will recover as it will no longer get disturbed by tillage. Of the 1.25 acres, ¾ acres was used for the orchard, which comprised tree species such as apples, peaches, stone fruit (plums), grapes, and pears. ½ acre was used for the food forest, including pecan trees, grapes, thornless blackberries, cherries, pomegranates, and stone fruit (Figure 7).
The selection of the tree species was based on cultural preferences, fruit trees varieties that do well in the local climate, and the soil type. The trees are irrigated using micro-emitters. During the rainy season, trees received limited irrigation depending on soil moisture availability. The survival rate of the trees was estimated to be 80%. Dwarf trees died due to heat stress in the first year, and they were replaced in the following year. A primary lesson learned in implementing the practice is that growers should use heavy mulch and compost when establishing trees and shrubs. Compost adds organic matter to the soil and helps to improve soil health, while mulch reduces water loss, suppresses weeds, and improves the overall soil nutrients.
In conclusion, healthy soil practices improve some farms' soil, and benefits are evident. The owners are working hard to restore soil health to reap long-term benefits. Documenting these efforts and testimonies from these growers can encourage other growers to participate. The more growers participate in these activities, the more the impacts of climate change can be mitigated.
- Author: Maria F. Ridoutt
The Alternative Manure Management Program helps dairy and livestock producers decrease their manure-derived methane emissions by transitioning from one manure management system to another. It awards funds up to $750,000.
As of March 10th 2022, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is accepting grant applications. Check out https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/AMMP/ for more information on the program and how to apply.
CDFA will accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis until May 9th 2022.
CDFA Informational Workshops
CDFA will host a no-cost webinar workshop to provide information on program requirements and the application process. Participants can attend remotely by registering for webinar access:
Friday, March 25, 2022
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM PT
Application Assistance / Asistencia para solicitudes
For free grant assistance please click here to view the list of our technical assistance providers. Spanish assistance is available.
Each AMMP project requesting funding must include at least one of the following project components that reduce baseline methane emissions.
1. Pasture-based management including:
(i) conversion of a non-pasture dairy or livestock operation to pasture-based management (ii) increasing the amount of time livestock spend at pasture.
2. Alternative manure treatment and storage practices including:
a) Installation of a compost bedded pack barn that composts manure in situ.
b) Installation of slatted floor pit storage manure collection.
3. Solid separation of manure solids prior to entry into a wet/anaerobic environment in conjunction with one of the manure treatment and/or storage practices listed below.
4. Conversion from a flush to scrape manure collection system in conjunction with one of the manure treatment and/or storage practices listed below.
Manure Treatment and/or Storage Practices include: Open solar drying, closed solar drying, forced evaporation, daily spread, solid storage, composting in vessel, aerated static pile, intensive windrows or passive windrows.
CDFA will fund up to 100% of the total project cost with a maximum grant award of $750,000 per project. Matching funds are strongly encouraged
The maximum project term is two (2) years.
Grant funds cannot be expended before January 1, 2023 or after December 31, 2024.
CDFA may offer an award different than the amount requested.
An applicant may submit multiple grant applications; however, each grant application must represent an individual project at a unique project site.
- Author: Maria Fernanda Ridoutt Orozco
Maria Ridoutt is the newest member to UC Cooperative Extension. Maria is based out of Kern County and serves Kern, Tulare, and Kings Counties. She specializes in the Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, providing technical assistance for:
The Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP)
The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP)
The Healthy Soils Program (HSP)
From a young age she was interested in agricultural systems, which motivated her to attend Universidad Agraria La Molina in Peru, her home country. There she earned her B.S. in Environmental Engineering, focusing on the relationship between agriculture and climate change.
Maria is fluent in English and Spanish. Prior to joining UC, she worked as an Environmental Educator in the New England region and has done research in rice fields in Northern Japan. In this new role, she hopes to work with local farmers and ranchers to contribute to the global effort of fighting climate change.
For more information about CDFA's programs and for help applying for these grants, please contact Maria at email@example.com or 661-868-6205.
Maria Ridoutt es el mi embromás nuevo de la Extensión Cooperativa de la UC en el condado de Kern y sirve a los condados de Kern, Tulare y Kings. Se especializaen las iniciativas de Climate Smart Agriculture del Departamento de Alimentos y Agricultura de California, brindando asistencia técnica para:
El Programa de Manejo Alternativo de Estiércol (AMMP)
El Programa Estatal de Mejora y Eficiencia del Agua (SWEEP)
El Programa de SuelosSaludables (HSP)
Ella puede comunicarseen ingles y español. Para obtener más información sobre los programas de CDFA y para obtener ayuda para solicitar estas subvenciones, comuníquese con Maria a firstname.lastname@example.org o 661-868-6205
- Author: Amanda Charles
Amanda Charles comes to us from Petaluma, CA as a new member of the Community Education Specialist team. She represents the Sonoma County region at the UCCE Sonoma office in assisting growers with the application and implementation processes of CDFA's Climate Smart Ag Funding Programs – AMMP, HSP, SWEEP. Charles earned her bachelor's degree in Agricultural Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she took a special interest in Dairy Science courses, furthering her love and knowledge for the industry. Upon returning home, she began working for a sustainable grass-fed beef company where she educated consumers about the positive impact farming practices can have in sequestering carbon and mitigating the issues of climate change.
Charles' involvement in local agriculture began as a child, exhibiting dairy cattle and market lambs in 4-H. She knew she wanted to return to Sonoma County to expand on her passion for sustainable agriculture in her community. “Helping farmers understand how switching up their farming practices can better their soil and our atmosphere, and then letting them know that there is funding available for these new practices is the best of both worlds” said Charles. She is looking forward to collaborating with more local coalitions to support farmers and ranchers in the fight against climate change.
- Author: email@example.com
Cover crops can provide many soil and ecosystem benefits, like improving water infiltration and providing resources for pollinators. However, we don't yet know which cover crop species are best suited for specific cash crops.
To answer this, I planted potatoes into the residue of 5 cover crop mixes in Shafter (Kern County). Here are the mixes I planted:
1. Soil health mix: Merced rye, common vetch, berseem clover, and daikon radish
2. Soil builder mix: triticale, Dundale peas, common vetch, yellow mustard, and radish
3. Brassica pollinator mix: yellow mustard, daikon radish, Nemfix mustard, “Bracco” white mustard, and canola
4. Simple mix 1: Merced rye and Dundale peas
5. Simple mix 2: barley and common vetch
I wanted to see if the cover crops would reduce disease incidence or improve yield. Here's what I did in this trial:
|Potatoes were harvested on August 3, 2021.|
So, what did we see? We had a few challenges:
Southern blight and other soil borne pathogens
By June 9, all of the rows had some potato plants, but it was very patchy.
The plants were dying because they were infected with southern blight and other soil borne pathogens (right photo).
So, did we find anything interesting?
There was too much variability and not enough replication to see meaningful differences in the yields associated with the different cover crop mixes.
Further research is needed to identify the best cover crop species for each cash crop in Kern County.
Southern blight thrives under the conditions of the trial field in Shafter. It has historically only been a major problem in Kern County, but other areas of California are now reporting cases due to warming temperatures.
It grows best under these conditions:
- Warm temperatures
- Acidic soil – the soil pH in the top 6 inches of soil was between 5.8 and 6.3
- Decaying organic matter – in this case, the decomposing cover crops
- High soil moisture – we used sprinkler irrigation
Unfortunately, southern blight doesn't just attack potatoes. It has a wide range of hosts and can decimate other vegetable crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and chard.
Should I not plant cover crops because of southern blight?
The potato trial in the neighboring field was also decimated by southern blight. That field was fallow before the potatoes were planted, with no cover crops.
If you plan to grow a crop that is susceptible to southern blight and you are in Kern County, you should focus on the cultural practices and chemical products that will reduce your risk of crop loss.
If you plant cover crops, make sure that the crop residue has completely decomposed before planting your cash crop. This might require terminating your cover crops early, so that there is enough time for complete decomposition.
In this trial, there was an incredible amount of biomass left over from the cover crops. They were irrigated and planted at 1.8X the recommended seeding rate. There was also plenty of nitrogen and warm weather to fuel their growth. If your cover crops do not produce as much biomass, especially ligneous biomass, then they should not take as long to break down as the ones in this study did.
More information about southern blight
For more information about the trial, contact Shulamit Shroder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661-903-9442.
Many thanks to Jed Dubose, Jaspreet Sidhu, Jennifer Fernberg, Cristal Hernandez, Brian Marsh, Rick Ramirez, Caddie Bergren, and Samikshya Budhathoki for their help.