Climate Toolkit

Understanding and Managing Soil Biology for Soil Health and Crop Production

Understanding and Managing Soil Biology for Soil Health and Crop Production

The functions of the soil food web and key components in promoting soil health and fertility and sustainable organic crop production, with research-based guidance on organic practices and NOP-approved inputs for improved soil food web function.

The goal of the guidebook is to help organic farmers navigate the wilderness of soil life and soil health management by providing up-to-date, science-based information on:

  • The soil food web, its key components, and functions.
  • Assessing and monitoring soil life and soil biological condition.
  • Managing soil life for long term soil health and productivity in organic systems.
  • Biological management of plant diseases.
  • Microbial inoculants and biostimulants: whether, when, and how to use them.
Download the Guidebook
By |2020-04-03T22:16:39+00:00April 3rd, 2020|Climate Toolkit|

Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaption, and Carbon Sequestration

Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaption, and Carbon Sequestration

Climate change threatens agriculture and food security across the U.S. and around the world. Rising global mean temperatures have already intensified droughts, heat waves, and storms, and altered life cycles and geographical ranges of pests, weeds, and pathogens, making crop and livestock production more difficult. Intense rainstorms aggravate soil erosion and complicate water management, and higher temperatures accelerate oxidation of soil organic matter. Warming climates modify crop development regulated by growing degree-days or “chill hours,” and threaten production of perennial fruit and nut crops that have strict chilling requirements to initiate growth and fruit set. Thus, agricultural producers have a major stake in efforts to curb further climate change, as well as improving the resilience of their farming and ranching systems to the impacts of climate disruption.

Download the Guidebook
By |2020-04-03T21:39:49+00:00April 3rd, 2020|Climate Toolkit|

Healthy soils release fewer greenhouse gases

Healthy soils release fewer greenhouse gases

Healthy soils release fewer greenhouse gases

Organic farmers do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, one of the primary contributors of greenhouse gases.

Healthy soils help crops obtain nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients from organic soil organic matter. This reduces the need for fertilizers that can threaten water quality and minimizes the release of greenhouse gases from soils.

Organic farmers and ranchers are prohibited from using synthetic inputs, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, to manage pests and diseases. Instead, they rely on the services provided by the diversity of plants and animals in and around their farms to prevent disease and pest outbreaks. In this video, Richard Smith, a Farm Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension, explains how organic producers use environmentally friendly practices such as promoting beneficial habitat for natural predators of insect pests to manage crop diseases.

By |2020-04-27T21:27:00+00:00March 25th, 2020|Climate Toolkit|

Healthy Soils Store More Carbon

Healthy soils store more carbon

Healthy soils store more carbon

The most practical and cost-effective way to remove excess carbon (CO2) from the atmosphere is through living plants and soils.

While organic systems require some level of physical disturbance to control weeds, they eliminate synthetic inputs and can significantly reduce tillage. Reduced tillage, crop diversification, cover cropping, organic amendments, and sound nutrient management can enhance carbon sequestration and build climate resiliency in organic agricultural systems.

By |2020-04-27T21:27:23+00:00March 24th, 2020|Climate Toolkit|

Healthy Soils Increase Resilience

click to learn more

Healthy soils increase resilience

Healthy soils increase resilience

Healthy soils form the foundation of organic production. Healthy soils have good structure (tilth), which allows them to absorb and hold moisture, drain well, maintain adequate aeration, and foster deep, healthy crop root systems. Such soils sustain crops through dry spells, require less irrigation water, and undergo less ponding, runoff, and erosion during heavy rains.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has identified four guiding principles that support healthy soils: 1) minimize disturbance, 2) maximize biodiversity, 3) keep soil covered, and 4) maintain living roots. These principles provide the foundation for a resilient farm system and are explained in more detail in the infographic above.

The USDA National Organic Standards require certified producers to implement crop rotation, cover cropping, tillage, nutrient management, and other practices that improve and maintain the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the soil.

In this short demonstration video, organic farmer Scott Park of Park Farm Organics in Meridian, CA explains the relationship between water management and soil health and the overall productivity of the farm. Scott explains the importance of preventive practices in organic systems—because organic farmers cannot rely on synthetic chemical inputs, they need to take care of the soil over time and solve production problems before they happen. Farmers do this by implementing soil health building practices because healthy soils are the foundation of a healthy farm.

By |2020-04-27T21:37:32+00:00March 20th, 2020|Climate Toolkit|