How We Grow

2021 July/Aug How We Grow

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AROUND THE WORLD The Practical Wisdom of Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices "Climate-smart agriculture." While not common parlance under the tree canopy yet, many growers are increasingly adopting practices recognized as climate-smart because they make sense for improving soil quality or efficiency – plus there are more economic incentives to implement them today than ever before. So, what is climate-smart agriculture? Basically, it's any management practice that reduces greenhouse gas emissions or keeps them out of the atmosphere, also known as sequestration. This includes practices that use water and nitrogen efficiently, improvements to energy efficiency, as well as using renewable fuel or contributing to biofuels with co-products. However, most of the excitement is around sequestering carbon in the soil – that is, practices that build up and maintain higher levels of organic matter. "If we had this conversation 30 years ago, I think people would agree on these practices; they're just meant to be," said Ben King, a Colusa-based almond grower, managing principal of Pacific Gold Agriculture, LLC and a member of the Almond Board of California's (ABC) Bee Health and Pollination Workgroup. "Sustainability and climate-smart ag is about keeping your ground fertile for future generations. I don't think we're that far off between what we do and what's being discussed." Agriculture as part of the climate solution With nearly 900 million acres of working lands across the U.S., agriculture is uniquely positioned to assist various initiatives aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. This is due partly to the ability to sequester carbon in soil. "A lot of food companies have figured out that climate change is a real risk to their business and they are stepping in, setting voluntary goals to reduce emissions from their operations," said Gabriele Ludwig, ABC's director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs. In 2020, General Mills announced it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% across its value chain over the next decade, while Hershey's recently announced it would seek a 25% reduction by 2030. Nestlé aims for a 20% emissions reduction by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030, followed by achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. "For food companies to meet their aggressive climate goals, they need help both upstream and downstream in their value chain," Ludwig said. "Upstream would be from growers and downstream would be from things like food waste and recycling or reusing packaging." So, what does upstream help look like when it comes to climate-smart agriculture practices? "The thinking is if there's a focus on soil quality improvements through organic matter inputs, it not only benefits the environment, but also helps the grower," Ludwig said. "The tangible agronomic benefits may be better water infiltration and/or increased water holding capacity in soils. Companies like these practices because they often provide co-benefits such as reduced erosion or movement of nitrogen." Examples of organic matter inputs in orchards include cover crops, composted manure or green-waste applications, chipping of prunings and whole orchard recycling (WOR). Recently completed research 1 into WOR from the University of California, Davis showed an improvement in water-holding capacity, the addition of nitrogen in the soil over time and a 19% cumulative nut yield increase over five years. Other UC research 2 has been looking at the impact of composted manure and green-waste to soils. Depending on the source of the compost, growers may be 1 UC Davis WOR, Biomass recycling for sustainability and resilience of almond production: 2 Effect of Partial Fertilizer Substitution with Organic Matter Amendments on Nutrient Cycling," ABC 2020 Research Update: *5 year cumulative yield * "The thinking is if there's a focus on soil quality improvements through organic matter inputs, it not only benefits the environment, but also helps the grower." — Gabriele Ludwig Continue on page 3 Almond Board of California 2

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