Soil Health Bottom Line in California - American Farmland Trust

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Soil Health Bottom Line in California

California’s more than 75,000 farms and millions of consumers depend on our soil’s continued ability to grow food. Living, functioning soils offer big benefits to farmers – better weather resilience, increased water and nutrient storage, and greater profitability through lower input costs and higher yields. Healthy soils protect water quality, reduce runoff, and sequester carbon to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Healthy soil in the San Joaquin ValleyMany farmers hesitate to use soil health practices, however, without knowing the impacts. AFT’s Soil Health Bottom Line program aims to scale up regenerative farming practices across California by increasing understanding and appreciation for different practices.

We do this by demonstrating successful on-farm implementation and showing how these practices positively affect the environment and bottom line.

AFT California is performing on-farm trials, developing quantification tools, and publishing case studies. These activities are further backed up by in-field support services, including one-on-one technical and financial assistance.  

Farmer Case Studies and Grower Profiles 

AFT’s case studies and grower profiles demonstrate the benefits of using soil health practices with cost-benefit analysis tools. We train farmers and agricultural professionals to perform this analysis themselves, so they understand the impacts on their farm and make informed decisions on their growing practices. 

Soil Health Case Studies

Case studies from AFT's Quantifying Economic and Environmental Outcomes of Soil Health Management Systems project. This on-the-ground project makes the case for the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices among farmers in several agricultural regions by demonstrating the economic benefits realized from successful implementation of soil health management practices.

Case Study Tool Kit and Quantification Tools 

AFT’s case study “tool kit” provides step-by-step guidelines for writing and developing these types of soil health case studies. The kit also explains the economic and environmental tools developed and used in the case studies, including the Partial Budget Analysis, Nutrient Tracking Tool, and COMET-Farm.  

AFT developed retrospective and predictive economic calculator tools that assess the economic impacts of various soil health management practices in different cropping systems. We are developing a similar economic calculator tool that performs a partial budget analysis of water conservation practices in orchard systems.  

On-Farm Trials and Analysis Projects  

AFT is participating in several multiyear on-farm trials, which are evaluating and demonstrating soil health and water conservation practices.   

Conservation cover around an almond orchard builds healthy soilThese trials evaluate the social, economic, and environmental outcomes related to various soil health and water conservation practices.

The results and successful management strategies are then shared through field days, publications, and other educational programming.  

Currently, AFT is involved in on-farm trials with diverse crop types and conservation practices across the United States. In California, these trials include orchards (i.e., almonds, walnuts, peaches, pistachios), vineyards, and row crops (i.e., tomato, sunflower, wheat, melon, cabbage, radish). 

KCRA-TV in Sacramento

See how planting fast-growing cover crops between orchard rows can save water, reduce pests, and pull carbon from the air to help mitigate climate change in this KCRA-TV interview in Sacramento with Tanya Gemperle and Paul Lum.

Watch Interview

Related Projects

Want to get involved in our programming or have questions for our team?