California's Healthy Soils Initiative is a collaboration of state agencies and departments, led by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to promote the development of healthy soils. A combination of innovative farm and land management practices contribute to building adequate soil organic matter that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce overall greenhouse gases.
"As the leading agricultural state in the nation, it is important for California's soils to be sustainable and resilient to climate change…. the Administration will work on several new initiatives to increase carbon in soil and establish long term goals for carbon levels in all California's agricultural soils. CDFA will coordinate this initiative under its existing authority provided by the Environmental Farming Act."
"Soil has the transformative power to help us stabilize our changing climate. By capturing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere and storing them underground, through the assistance of living plants and microbes, we improve both the atmosphere and the soil."
"When we take care of our soil, we take care of ourselves. Return organic material to the soil, and we not only keep it from being wasted in a landfill, we sequester carbon, support our diverse farms and ranches, help retain water, reduce erosion and improve air quality. The Healthy Soils Initiative nurtures one of California's most valuable natural assets."
"As the nation's leading agricultural state, California depends on a reliable source of nutrient rich soil. This forward-thinking initiative helps us protect and sustain this critical resource while also conserving precious water resources and helping to fight climate change."
Soil organic matter suppresses disease organisms and increases plant nutrient availability and uptake.
Healthy soil can hold up to 20 times its weight in water. Increasing soil organic matter 1% can increase soil available water holding capacity by 3.7%.
Soil organic matter helps build soil aggregate stability and structure and make it more resistant to wind or water erosion.
Soils contain approximately 75% of the carbon pool on land—three times more than the amount stored in living plants and animals.
Increasing soil organic matter increases infiltration and biological activity that make soil a more effective filter.
At least a quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives in the soil; healthy soils improve habitats and other natural resources.
* Click to see supporting research
|1%||increase in organic matter results in as much as 25,000 gallons of available soil water per acre.|
|1.2||billion tons of carbon is sequestered by global soils annually.|
|4||years||is the average amount of time it takes for a farmer to build soil organic matter by adopting conservation practices.|
Soil disturbance can be the result of physical, chemical or biological activities. Physical soil disturbance, such as tillage, results in bare and/or compacted soil that is destructive and disruptive to soil microbes, and it creates a hostile environment for them to live. Misapplication of farm inputs can disrupt the symbiotic relationships between fungi, other microorganisms, and plant roots.
A diverse and fully functioning soil food web provides for nutrient, energy, and water cycling that allows a soil to express its full potential. Increasing the diversity of a crop rotation and cover crops increases soil health and soil function, reduces input costs, and increases profitability.
Healthy soil is dependent upon how well the soil food web is fed. Providing plenty of easily accessible food to soil microbes helps them cycle nutrients that plants need to grow. Sugars from living plant roots, recently dead plant roots, crop residues, and soil organic matter all feed the many and varied members of the soil food web.
Soil cover conserves moisture, reduces temperature, intercepts raindrops (to reduce their destructive impact), suppresses weed growth, and provides habitat for members of the soil food web that spend at least some of their time above ground.