UC ANR Climate Smart Educators increase California’s resilience to climate change

UC ANR Climate Smart Educators increase California’s resilience to climate change

UC ANR Climate Smart Agriculture Educator team assisted growers to win CDFA grants that reduced greenhouse gases equivalent to removing roughly 7,000 cars off the road, supporting UC ANR's public value of building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems.

The Issue

Increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns caused by climate change threaten crop yields and farm profits across the state. Growers must continue to adapt to climate stressors, such as increased temperatures and occurrences of drought, and can aid in reducing climate change through their farming practices.

How UC Delivers

A collaborative partnership between the Strategic Growth Council, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) teamed up to support 10 Climate Smart Agriculture Community Education Specialists (CSA CES) throughout the state to provide technical assistance and outreach to promote Climate-Smart Agriculture Incentive Programs. These programs include:  

  • The Healthy Soils Program, which incentivizes the implementation of climate-smart agriculture practices such as cover cropping, composting, crop rotation, and mulching which reduce erosion and greenhouse gases
  • The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), which encourages farmers to install more efficient irrigation systems that decrease water consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and
  • The Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), which awards funds to livestock producers who decrease their methane emissions by changing the way they manage manure.

 

 

Since establishing this partnership in 2019, the UC ANR Climate Smart Agriculture Educator team has provided hands-on assistance to over 200 farmers and ranchers through the complex application process. Collaborating with other CDFA technical providers to host workshops, field days, and events has expanded reach to a greater number of growers, over 120 of whom were able to receive funding after receiving technical assistance. UC CSA CES efforts don't stop at the outreach or application phase; educators work year-round to ensure successful implementation of climate-smart projects.

After the award process, educators assist awardees in completing grant invoicing and contract reporting requirements and connect them with vendors, industry experts, and service providers. UC CSA CES also engage in a variety of additional support activities. For example, to help establish successful cover crop adoption, one educator created a cover crop decision-making tool. A different educator started a small compost spreader rental program to assist small growers in spreading compost. Another facilitates full project management through translation services to a cooperative of Cantonese-speaking awardees.

 The Impact

Through assisting awardees in the adoption of practices such as cover cropping, installing solar panels, and installing dairy manure solid separator systems, the 10 UC CSA CES have collectively supported growers in reducing 33,000 MT/CO2 per year, as measured by California Air and Resources Board (CARB) Green House Gas Emission reduction calculator (SWEEP GHG Calculator on CDFA's website), and the HSP Comet planner tool. That's equivalent to removing 7,000 cars from the road per year.

Table A provides an overview of how much GHG has reduced in counties where the UC Climate Smart Agriculture Educator team has helped farmers implement climate-smart practices. Totals for all projects are much higher.

UCCE-County Location

Total CO2 equivalent in MT/year

Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County

314.2

Merced, Madera, Stanislaus

5263.31

Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Tehama County

4545.785

Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, San Joaquin, El Dorado, Sonoma, Colusa, Sutter

11716.4

Santa Clara County

58.85

 Fresno County

1353.924

Kern & Tulare Counties

7060.283

Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura County

630.5

San Diego and Riverside Counties

300.18

Imperial County and Riverside County

3689.1

 

Glenn County grower, Shannon Douglass says, “When producers have the support from the UCCE office that they already know and trust, they are more willing to implement new practices. The application process is intimidating, but with the help from UC, soil healthy practices are becoming much more widely adopted.”

Research shows that Healthy Soils Program practices such as compost application increases the amount of organic matter in soil, amongst numerous other benefits such as increasing the water and nutrient retention capacity of soils, providing a reservoir of nutrients for plants, improving aeration, improving water infiltration, reducing soil erosion, and supporting the abundance and diversity of soil organisms, which can improve plant health. Compost application is just one fundable practice farmers can implement to help reduce greenhouse gases on their operation.

Thanks to this unique partnership with CDFA, UC ANR is able to provide hands-on support to farmers statewide so that they can improve the health of their soils, reduce livestock methane emissions, and improve water use efficiency. In this way, the Climate-Smart Agriculture program contributes to UC ANR's public value of building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems.

 


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