CDFA, NRCS and Ag Council come together for healthy soils tour

Agronomist Valerie Bullard shows CDFA and industry representatives a radish produced with healthy-soils practices

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross recently joined growers, industry representatives and partners from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on a healthy soils tour in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The goal of the event was to bring together various stakeholders and learn about the role soils can play in absorbing carbon, improving yields and retaining water.

“California has emerged as a global leader in improving soil health on farms and ranches across the state,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “Tours like these allow us to see advances in soil health research and real-life examples of how building soil organic matter can result in a variety of added benefits.”

The group began their tour at the USDA Plant Materials Center (CAPMC) in Lockeford, San Joaquin County. Established in 1939, the 106-acre property is developing conservation technology through use of plant materials to enhance the sustainability of California agriculture. At the center, attendees learned about several techniques involved in building organic matter, including cover cropping, no-till, and hedgerow plantings.

Following the tour of the CAPMC, the group visited two separate private operations – Locke Farms, a walnut orchard adjacent to the CAPMC; and Vino Farms, a vineyard. Both operations are actively using management practices to improve soil health.

Tour participants discussing soil health in the CAPMC conference room.

“The CDFA meeting was an opportunity for government and industry to come together at the living laboratory of the PMC to learn how management–including the use of cover crops and reduced soil disturbance– improves soil health by increasing organic matter (carbon), filtration, and soil water holding capacity,” said Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Manager of the CAPMC.

The tour is part of a wider initiative by the state to establish partnerships across government and industry to promote the benefits of building soil health. Last year CDFA joined NRCS, the California Farm Bureau, UC Davis, and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the California Farm Demonstration Network. The goal of the network is to increase adoption of economically viable resource conservation practices in California’s agricultural systems.

To learn more about California’s Healthy Soil Initiative, please visit: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/healthysoils/.

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