Compost on Sacramento Valley Rangelands: Boosting ranch productivity, soil health and carbon storage
As part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program, this project demonstrates compost application on a cattle ranch in Winters, CA. Over the course of 3 years of compost applications, we monitor soil organic carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as overall improvements to soil health and forage production. In collaboration with the landowner and range management experts, the project team seeks to develop improved cost-benefit data for regional/statewide adoption and incentives programming. As part of this project, YCRCD leads an outreach program with support from regional associations to share project information with the ranching and conservation community via on-site compost demonstrations and field trial tours.
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In 2017 Scott Stone of Yolo Land & Cattle Co. partnered with Yolo County Resource Conservation District and Carbon Cycle Institute to complete the first Carbon Farm Plan (CFP) in Yolo County. Carbon Farm Planning is a whole farm approach to optimizing carbon capture on working landscapes, allowing for the quantification of GHG benefits while developing a framework to use carbon as an organizing principle to manage land.
Click here to read a California Rangeland Trust article about Yolo Land & Cattle Co. and “Carbon Cowboy’s Healing the Earth”.
From the CFP, project partners identified areas on Yolo Land & Cattle Co. that would be suitable for compost application for a demonstration project as part of CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program with the goal to monitor soil organic carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to test existing research findings that application of green waste compost to rangelands results in improvements to soil health and forage production.
Compost will be applied to 50 acres of grazed annual grassland on the property. 5 dry tons of compost will be applied across all 50 acres for three consecutive years with the first application in 2018. The total combined application amounts to 1/4 inch of compost applied to 50 acres total.
Below is a map showing three paired control and treatment sites throughout Yolo Land & Cattle Co. Red polygons are areas treated with compost (50 acres in total). Green polygons are control areas.
Compost Application Sites at Yolo Land & Cattle Co.
Benefits are evaluated by three primary metrics: 1) soil carbon flux, as measured by net ecosystem exchange of CO2 (NEEC), 2) soil organic conent in the top 40cm of soil (SOC) and 3) forage production, as measured by above-ground plant biomass at peak production. Additional measurements include soil dynamic properties (bulk density and water infiltration rate) and plant community composition (species, functional group and forage diversity).
Below is a map showing field sampling design:
Sampling Design for Monitoring Compost Application on Yolo Land & Cattle Co.
Project activities complete to date:
- 2018 Fall Compost Application (50 acres) and on-farm demonstration workshop
- 2019 Spring Cattle, Carbon and Compost Workshop- on-farm demonstration of compost and discussion with Jeffrey Creque of Carbon Cycle Institute.
- 2019 Spring Prescribed Burn Workshop- on farm discussion of reducing fuel loads for improved soil health and catastrophic fire management with Phil Dye.
- 2019 Fall Compost Application (50 acres) and on-farm demonstration workshop where Corey Shake and Chris Potter discussed early monitoring results.
- Ongoing seasonal data monitoring by Point Blue Conservation Science and CASA Systems 2100.
Westside Spreading, LLC
For more information about CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program click here