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Carbon Farm Planning

Are you interested in protecting your topsoil, improving soil health, boosting agricultural productivity, and improving the resiliency of your farmland? Then read on to learn more about carbon farm planning!

We are in the process of developing the first Carbon Farm Plan in Glenn County. A Carbon Farm Plan is a whole farm approach to optimizing carbon sequestration on agricultural landscapes. Why focus on carbon? Well, carbon is essential for agriculture and all life on Earth is dependent upon it! Plants require carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to carry out photosynthesis and grow. Carbon is also essential for healthy soil because it feeds the soil life that cycles nutrients. As soil carbon increases, so does the quantity and diversity of soil life. The decomposing waste and bodies of soil organisms go on to create more soil organic matter which increases soil water holding capacity and water infiltration rates.

More carbon = more soil life = healthier soil = healthier crops

The graph below is from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and shows the benefits to soil health over time when managing lands to improve soil health.

USDA-NRCS graph on Soil Quality and Time


So how do we capture more carbon on our landscape? There are a variety of carbon farming practices that can increase carbon sequestration from the atmosphere into the soil.

The graphic below shows how a tree sequesters carbon. The tree absorbs carbon (and sunlight) through its leaves during photosynthesis, retains some in its trunk and leaves and pumps some of it into the soil through its roots. ALL LIVING PLANTS ARE DOING THIS ALL DAY. When the plant matter falls to the ground and decomposes some the carbon embodied in it goes into the soil.

Carbon Cycle of a Tree
Image adapted from and used courtesy of N. Scott and M. Ernst, Woods Hole Research Center,

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

So what’s the easiest way to capture more carbon? GROW MORE PLANTS! Plant some cover crops, plant low lying vegetation along your field borders, or plant a hedgerow. The more plants you have growing the more carbon you are cycling through your system the more food and habitat there will be for your soil ecosystem. Other carbon farming practices include mulching, reducing tillage, compost application, prescribed grazing, and alley cropping.

A Carbon Farm Plan is a guiding document that outlines conservation management practices which help producers address their resource concerns and maximize carbon capture on the farm, into the soil and into vegetation. In addition, it can be used to get extra points on future grant applications and funding opportunities to implement conservation management practices.

A Carbon Farm Plan benefits the producer, the land, and the stability of our climate system. Sequestering more carbon on farmlands is one of the most promising solutions to global climate change. 

Check out NASA’s webpage on climate change to learn more.

To learn more about carbon farm planning, also check out the website of our partner the Carbon Cycle Institute.

Funding for our first Carbon Farm Plan was provided by Patagonia.