Healthy soil
The rich, deep color of this soil indicates what healthy soil looks like. Photo credit: USDA-NRCS photo by Catherine Ulitsky.

To produce a bumper crop of tomatoes, or lettuce, a farmer hopes for enough sunshine and rain. But those are not the only critical ingredients.

Scow: “It’s immensely beneficial for agriculture to increase carbon in the soil.”

That’s Kate Scow of the University of California-Davis.

Adding organic matter such as decaying plant and animal material increases soil carbon. Scow says that improves crop yields, reduces erosion, improves water efficiency, and supports beneficial microorganisms.

It’s also a great way to slow climate change, because it helps plants store more carbon in the ground. But many modern farming practices can deplete soil carbon.

Scow: “A lot of people are making observations about it, like how it was when their grandfather farmed and how it is now.”

To improve soil health and reduce global warming pollution, California is investing seven and a half million dollars in the Healthy Soils program. It will promote farming methods that retain soil carbon, for example reducing tilling, growing cover crops and applying compost.

With more than a quarter of California’s land used for agriculture, the program could benefit both the climate and the food on our plates.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Filed under: ,