Modern land and management practices have resulted in significant ecosystem carbon losses, resulting in erosion, soil degradation, poor water quality, less nutritious food, and, in rangeland systems, lowered productivity. Simultaneously, the impacts resulting from climate change, including changes in precipitation, seasonal temperatures, and water availability, threaten the viability of agriculture and the natural systems it is dependent upon.
New science on the potential of managed soil systems to sequester carbon offers a potentially significant option for a global carbon sink. Building upon existing programs that reduce GHGs and increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, climate-beneficial agricultural practices, if implemented at scale, can play a key role in significantly reducing atmospheric GHG’s. While improving environmental health, they can simultaneously improve the productivity, resilience and ecological sustainability of agricultural landscapes.
Carbon Farming is the active management of carbon through our agricultural and land management practices. It can be done in any agricultural system. When we implement carbon farming, we address many of the current health impacts related to agriculture, including: enhancing ground water and air quality by increasing soil health (enhancing water holding capacity and decreasing dust), and decreasing the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and chemical pesticide use. Upstream, converting manure and other annual waste into high-quality compost avoids the methane and air quality issues of conventional on-farm nutrient and waste management, especially on dairies. Perhaps of most immediate interest to consumers, improving soil health and soil organic matter directly improves the nutritional content and flavor of food.
LDF grantee Carbon Cycle Institute works to advance carbon cycle solutions across California such as working models of alternative practices, technologies and economic value chains that can produce food, fiber, and flora in ways that improve the environment and are climate- and carbon-beneficial. They work to deliver training and educational programs that foster carbon literacy among farmers and ranchers, policy makers, thought leaders, and the general public. The Carbon Cycle Institute and their partners are working together to pave the way for broad adoption of carbon farming practices. They have been working with Resource Conservation Districts and landowners, completing the research necessary to show that carbon farming works and advocating for supportive policy with county, regional, state and federal agency partners.
With increasing awareness and focus on soil and carbon sequestration, California is now looked at by the rest of the world as the proving ground for carbon farming and climate-friendly agriculture. There is a tremendous groundswell of interest from farmers, ranchers, and their land management advisers – having such significant interest in climate and carbon from mainstream agriculture is unprecedented. The State of California is taking tremendous leadership by supporting carbon farming through public funding and public policy supports. Additionally, the prolonged California drought is creating a unique opportunity to engage farmers and ranchers, who are now more open to considering new management approaches that address the often times forgotten needs of soil, water, and ecosystem resources upon which agriculture is dependent.