California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Healthy Soils Program will be accepting applications for grants until June 26.
Applications will be accepted on a first come first served basis. Those submitting applications will be notified within six weeks of approval.
This program gives grants up to $100,000 to incorporate practices that will improve soil health and sequester carbon. Healthy soils, as defined by Natural Resource Conservation Service, are soils that will support plant growth and a vibrant ecosystem and are not prone to erosion.
Interest in this program is gaining traction in the southern San Joaquin Valley, said Shulamit Shroder, UCCE community education specialist in Kern County.
She confirmed that almond and pistachio growers in the county have expressed interest in initiating strategies that will improve soil health in their orchards. Planting cover crops and compost applications are the two strategies receiving the most interest.
“Their goal is to try and see what works, refine it and improve that practice,” Shroder said.
The Healthy Soils program has payment rates per acre for 30 different practices to improve soils. Examples of cropping practices include planting cover crops, mulching, nutrient management and no-till or reduced till. These practices must be continued for three years with the goal of improving soil water holding capacity, stability and organic matter content. Compost applications are also eligible for grant funding. Composts can be purchased or produced on farm. Compost must be spread for three consecutive years.
Whole orchard recycling is a new practice for the 2020 Healthy Soils Program. When removing an existing orchard, the trees are chipped and then spread back on the orchard site and incorporated back in to the soil. Grant funding is also extended for woody cover establishment and grazing land practices. The woody cover practice includes hedgerow planting, riparian buffer and windbreak establishment to decrease wind and water erosion and to keep nutrients in the soil. The plantings must be complete within three years. Grazing practices include prescribed grazing, range planting and silvopasture, a mix of trees and pasture, to improve the quality of rangeland grazing, decrease erosion and to increase carbon sequestration in the soil.
The online application portal can be found at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/incentivesprogram.html.
The grant process includes a web-based application consisting of a series of questions that can be saved and returned to prior to submitting. There is no longer a cost share requirement for this program.
Contact Shroder at 661-868-6218 for more information or assistance with the application.