Governor Newsom announced new strategies to combat climate change, and he incorporates two ideas that we can get behind. One idea is already being used by many growers, and the seconds one that anyone who breathes will appreciate.
He is directing state agencies to find new ways to incorporate, or sequester, more carbon into the soil. This sequestration holds carbon where it does no harm. The two big items of interest to us are: first, he wants active forest management to reduce catastrophic risk and restore forest health; second, for growers to use healthy soils management, including cover crops, hedgerows and compost applications.
We hear a big sigh of relief at his request for active forest management. If the Governor is able to make that happen, he will greatly reduce the risk of massive forest fires. It makes sense, if it doesn’t burn it isn’t pumping all those tons of carbon into the air.
The second idea has growers sequestering carbon to improve soil, and that makes just as much sense. A number of farmers already do this. They add compost and organic matter to their ground and see a benefit in water retention and fertility.
One grower has taken this a step further. Chris Sayer, of Petty Ranch, put in a cover crop and kept measurements of the results. He says this added about 3 percent organic content to his soil. Not only does he have more fertile soil, he has reduced irrigation water usage from 2 acre feet to 1.5 acre feet or less.
Chris is a 5th generation Ventura County farmer. He is a conventional citrus and avocado grower, but uses some organic techniques such as cover crops and beneficial insects. His goal is maintaining the soil and trees in their best condition to be able to handle extremes of temperature or drought.
Chris has doubled the amount of organic content in his soil. On 50 acres it equates to about two and a half million gallons of water retained for crop use after the rainy season ends.
With that sort of payoff, it should be easy for more growers to incorporate organic matter and cover crops into their farms.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.