Skip to main content

California Hopes ‘Healthy Soil’ Will Fight Climate Change

San Diego County has the most farms compared to any other county in the Unite...

Photo by Gabriel Salcedo

Above: San Diego County has the most farms compared to any other county in the United States. Local farms tend to range from one to 300 acres.

California Hopes 'Healthy Soil' Will Fight Climate Change

GUEST:

Puja Batra, founder, Batra Ecological Strategies

Transcript

California’s $7.5 million Healthy Soils initiative will pay farmers up to $50,000 if they adopt "carbon farming" practices, including applying compost on rangeland to increase carbon retention capacity. State officials say it could remove the equivalent of millions of tons of carbon dioxide a year.

California lawmakers are enlisting farmers’ help in pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it in their soil.

California’s $7.5 million Healthy Soils initiative will pay farmers up to $50,000 if they adopt "carbon farming" practices, including applying compost on rangeland to increase carbon retention capacity. State officials say it could remove the equivalent of millions of tons of carbon dioxide a year.

San Diego County Farm Bureau executive director Eric Larson said the impact will likely be greater in regions like the Central Valley, because many of the practices involve reducing crop tilling, which releases some of the soil's carbon. San Diego farms grow a lot of permanent crops, like citrus trees, that do not get tilled and the region's large nursery industry primarily uses soil in pots, he said.

But San Diego farmers with rangeland could be key to the state's goals. Organic farmers have been using compost on their land for decades, but research in Marin County found that applying a half-inch of compost on rangelands used by grazing livestock boosted that soil's carbon for at least eight years. That's the equivalent of nine metric tons of carbon dioxide per acre, according to Batra Ecological Strategies founder Puja Batra.

"We have over 200,000 acres of rangelands," Batra said. "Only some of that could actually use composting because some has steep slopes, but the potential is so great. And it’s just a one-time application and then it’s grazing as usual."

The California Department of Food and Agriculture will host a webinar Tuesday morning for interested farmers. The application deadline is September 19.

Batra joins KPBS Midday on Monday with more on how San Diego can take advantage of carbon farming.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.