- (Focus Area) Natural Resources
- Author: Alli Rowe
- Author: Niki Mazaroli
There has been much buzz and renewed interest recently in planting trees as a tool to combat both the causes and impacts of climate change. But what role do trees play in climate-smart agriculture?
With respect to building healthy soils, tree canopy and leaf litter can provide protection against wind erosion and temperature extremes. Tree roots can help stabilize soils, increase nutrient cycling, and improve soil biota representative of a healthy soil system. The incorporation of trees and shrubs on agricultural landscapes, known as agroforestry, blends the practices of forestry and agriculture and can provide many ecological and economic benefits.
The USDA defines agroforestry as “the intentional combination of agriculture and forestry to create productive and sustainable land use practices” . In theory, it really is this simple: adding trees or shrubs to an agricultural landscape. In practice, like most things in agriculture, it is more nuanced and, of course, site specific. Agroforestry includes a suite of practices with varying degrees of complexity that yield systems also of varying degrees of complexity. The most common agroforestry practices in the U.S. are: alley cropping, silvopasture, riparian buffers, windbreaks, and multi-story cropping (also referred to as forest farming).
Like many of the practices that fall under the header of climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry is both old and new. While the term agroforestry is relatively new, agroforestry has been practiced for millennia, yielding diverse, multistoried food forests in both temperate and tropical climates. The recent interest in agroforestry of the last few decades has been driven in part by the desire to apply the benefits of perennial agriculture to address some of the challenges of row crop and animal agricultural systems.
When considering transitioning to agroforestry practices, it is crucial to understand in advance how the incorporation of perennial woody plants will impact your existing operation. Select trees and shrubs that will grow well in your climate and the specific conditions of your farm, and will complement - not compete with! - existing crops or pasture.
In addition to plant selection, site design and management are also key. For example, where you plant trees or shrubs on your farm in relation to other crops or other elements of your farm can determine whether there is synergy or competition for water and nutrients. Site design can also determine the need for different types of management, such as in alley cropping systems where the widths of the “alleys” between rows of trees must factor in the size of any machinery used.
A local example of agroforestry in action is at King & King Ranchin Fillmore. The King family received a Healthy Soils Program Incentive Grantaward to establish a windbreak along a 32-acre plot that is transitioning out of vegetable cultivation. The windbreak will protect the soil from the intense Santa Ana winds that sweep through the valley, establish living roots, sequester carbon in the woody biomass of the trees, and provide habitat for local pollinator and bird populations.
We will be highlighting more about agroforestry practices and the efforts of local producers in future blogposts, so stay tuned!
 USDA National Agroforestry Center. Agroforestry Practices. 2019. Available online: https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/practices/index.shtml (accessed on 31 August 2018).
- Author: firstname.lastname@example.org [undefined:email@example.com]
Congratulations to the recipients of the CDFA Healthy Soils Program! Nine Mendocino farmers were selected for an award, totaling over $300k going to make Mendocino County soils that much healthier. That is incredible action taken by our NorCal land stewards!
The Mendocino awarded projects are as follows:
- Elke Vineyards, of Anderson Valley, was selected for an award of $42,034.08 to plant hedgerows and a riparian forest buffer on their property, and to include cover crop and compost under their vines. This is designed to reduce run-off, soil erosion, and drift and dust contamination, as well as to improve wildlife and healthy pollinator habitat, and to sequester carbon, add soil vitality, and keep their streams clean and cool.
- Frey Vineyards, of Redwood Valley, was selected for an award of $25,942.77 to plant hedgerows and riparian buffer zones at the edge of their vineyards. This was designed to provide a greater balance of ecosystem functions by sequestering carbon and creating habitat for wildlife.
- Glenn McGourty, County Director of UCCE Mendocino, was selected for an award of $29,246.66 to improve the functioning of his property, where he grows a variety of wine grapes, walnuts, and fruit trees. This project was designed to stabilize the eroding streambanks of this Russian River property by establishing a riparian herbaceous cover of native grasses and by restoring an aging riparian forest buffer of cottonwoods and oaks. In addition, he will be applying a compost/cover crop combo on his vineyards to repair the soils damaged by recent flooding.
- Magruder Ranch in Potter Valley has been selected for an award of $73,500 to apply compost to 26 acres of rangeland used to pasture cattle, sheep, and pigs. They will be working in partnership with Scripps Oceanography Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes to accurately measure the soil moisture holding capacity of their rangelands throughout this project.
- Marie Hoff, a small land owner in Potter Valley, was selected for an award of $2,928.28 to improve the forage of her flock of sheep by integrating fruit trees, applying compost, and planting a multi-species hedgerow on their 10 acre pasture.
- Meadow Farm Community Land Trust, a non-profit located in Fort Bragg, has been selected for an award of $17,765.11 to add compost, mulch, and cover crops to their low-carbon soils. They will also be planting more herbaceous plants to provide habitat for wildlife.
- Navarro Vineyards, of Anderson Valley, was selected for an award of $74,338 to produce their own on-farm compost, which they will spread over 264 acres.
- Red Creek Farm in Potter Valley was selected for an award of $9,300 to apply compost to their pastures and rangeland.
- Strong Roots in Potter Valley was selected for an award of $36,300 to apply compost to the veggie fields and irrigated pasture.
According to Linda Macalwee and Katy Brantley of the Mendocino Resource Conservation District, “In total, practices combined have the potential to sequester almost 1,980 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This would lead to the equivalent of 420 cars being removed from the roads per year. Additionally, implementing these practices has the potential to improve water holding capacity, increase soil organic matter, reduce nutrient inputs, stabilize soil to reduce erosion, attract beneficial insects and pollinators, and save fuel costs by reducing tillage.” Way to go, Mendo farmers!
As UCCE Mendocino's Climate-Smart Community Education Specialist, I was able to work 1-1 with several of the awarded farmers on their applications. The experience was very educational, as I had about 5 weeks to get started, learn as much as I could, meet the farmers and discuss their projects, and get their applications in by the deadline in March. While some of our farmers worked independently on their applications, only to reach out to ask questions, others worked more closely with myself and the other Technical Assistance Providers contracted by the CDFA. I found that many of our older farmers needed help navigating the intricacies of the online application platform, while others had more questions and concerns regarding the project's implementation requirements. For instance, qualified winners applying compost to their land are required to apply it 3x over the project duration, a feat which requires hiring labor and renting machinery which isn't covered with the grant funds. This detail was a make or break for certain farmers, but overall it seems compost application was a popular choice amongst our selected awardees.
The Healthy Soils Program is set to have another round of solicitations starting in early 2020. For more information on how to prepare, check out the CDFA website at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/. Farmers across CA, no matter the size of their production or hopeful projects are encouraged to apply. Farmers who qualify as a Socially or Severely Disadvantaged Community member, or who provide benefits to these specific communities, will receive extra consideration. Contact your closest UCCE Community Education Specialist for Technical Assistance with your application!
Climate smart agriculture encompasses management practices that increase soil carbon sequestration, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve yields and efficiencies, and promotes climate resilience. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) supports three funding opportunities in climate smart agriculture: the Healthy Soils Program, the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program.
In a collaborative partnership, CDFA and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources have teamed up to support 9 community education specialists throughout the state to provide technical assistance and outreach for the climate smart agriculture programs. To learn more and locate a specialist near you, visit http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/Programs/ClimateSmartAg/.
- Author: Valerie Perez
My name is Valerie Perez and I was hired by the Santa Cruz UC Cooperative Extension office as a Community Education Specialist (CES). I recently graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where I received my bachelors in Agricultural Business. The summer before my last quarter at Cal Poly I interned with a large animal veterinarian and found my passion. For now, I am grateful for the opportunity in exploring ways to improve agriculture methods for a changing climate, while taking my pre-veterinary classes.
I briefly want to talk about the main goal of my job here at the UC and how I can hopefully help some of you in the near future. My job is to get growers and farmers familiar and/or to sign up for the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) grants that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has.
Now, you may be wondering “What is Climate Smart Agriculture?” and the simple answer to this question is that there is no uniform response. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines CSA as an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate.
I want to touch on some of the information about the two grants that I am work closely with. For more in depth information about the grants you can visit this link: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/
The Healthy Soils Program (HSP) is divided into two different project types, the first being the HSP Incentives Program and the second is the HSP Demonstration Projects. Both project types provide financial assistance for agricultural practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and improve soil health.
HSP Incentives Program:
- Receive up to $75,000
- Some of the eligible practices: cover crop, compost, hedgerow, no-till or reduced-till, mulching, and forage/biomass plantings
- Webpage: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/IncentivesProgram.html
HSP Demonstration Projects:
- Type A Projects: $250,000
- Type B Projects: $100,000
- Webpage: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/HealthySoils/DemonstrationProjects.html
The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) provides financial assistance to farmers and growers who implement irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water.
- Receive up to $100,000
- Some of the eligible practices: soil monitoring, drip system, switching to low pressure irrigation systems, pump retrofits, variable frequency drives and installation of renewable energy
- Webpage: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/sweep/
I am thrilled to be working for the UC and especially on these CSA grants. I truly believe this a great opportunity for growers and farmers to apply to. I am here to help you guys navigate through the application process, so please do not hesitate to contact me. I really enjoy hearing from you guys!