Resources to maximize soil health on farms in California's North Coast region.
Winter 2022: Edition 14

  • Event Alert: Making the Connection: Soil Biology & Soil Health
  • What's New at the Hub: Expanding content for more production systems
  • In the News: Cover crops
  • Science Spotlight: Life Belowground on the Range
  • Practice Highlight: Managing to improve rainfall use efficiency
  • Listening and Learning: Inside Winemaking podcast, 2021 Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting, 2021 Soil and Nutrition Conference
  • Funding Opportunities: CDFA Alternative Manure Management Program
  • Events: Sacramento Valley Cover Crop Tour, CAFF California Small Farm Conference, NCAT Soil Health Innovations Conference
  • Job Announcements: Positions at CA Climate and Agriculture Network, CA Association of Resource Conservation Districts
Event Alert: Dive Deep into Soil Biology
Making the Connection: Soil Biology & Soil Health
February 10, 2022 | 9:00-10:30am PST
Join Sonoma Resource Conservation District and the North Coast Soil Hub for a presentation from Dr. Jennifer Moore, Research Soil Scientist at USDA-ARS, about soil microbial community composition, the impacts of drought and heat on soil organisms, and how soil organisms respond to different management practices.

Following Dr. Moore’s presentation, she’ll be joined by Dr. Kerri Steenwerth (Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS) and Dr. Jacob Parnell (Product Specialist, Biome Makers Inc.) for a panel discussion on soil biology in agriculture, and to field questions from attendees.

This event is free and a Zoom link will be shared with all who register. Sign up today to receive the event details and updates!
What's New at the Hub
If you are new to the North Coast Soil Hub, welcome to our quarterly newsletter! In this edition, you will notice content about other production systems as well as information and resources for the vineyard community. This is part of our expansion to serve all farmers and ranchers in the North Coast region of California. Please share with friends in the agricultural community who could benefit from our soil health network!
In the News: Cover Crops!
In the Napa Valley Register: Cover crops in vineyards mitigate erosion, boost soil nutrients
Check out this article in the Napa Valley Register on the benefits of cover crops in vineyards. A few highlights:

“Cover crops on hillsides prevent erosion, which, in return, protects our river and watershed.

On top of that, in vineyards all over the valley, cover crops add nutrients back into the soil, increase microbiome diversity, and are used widely as a climate-smart farming practice.”
“On the valley floor you may be using them to reinvigorate them and achieve that natural balance, but in the hillsides, you are really doing it to help with erosion. I have played around with a lot of different combinations of things to see what worked in different areas… You also may have some hillside properties where you plant a permanent cover crop for erosion control, and it is great and it will naturally reseed itself.”
Science Spotlight: Life Belowground on the Range
From our partners at Point Blue Conservation Science
Our partners at Point Blue Conservation Science produced this beautifully illustrated guide detailing the different kinds of life present in rangeland soils. Check it out to learn more about earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, fungi, bacteria, arthropods, and viruses.

Practice Highlight: Managing to improve rainfall use efficiency
With heavy rainfall events in Northern California these past few months, managing to improve infiltration is key to reducing the risk of erosion, ponding and flooding. No one wants to see their soil wash away in a storm!

When water pools on the soil surface, it is an indicator that the soil is saturated and all available pore space is filled with water. One reason for poor drainage could be soil compaction, which results in less overall pore space in the soil. Poorly-drained soils may remain flooded long after rain events, which means soil biology and plants have trouble accessing the oxygen they need. This can result in an anaerobic environment in the soil, which leads to unfavorable growing conditions and disrupts beneficial soil life.

Well-structured soil has the ability to retain water and adequate pore space for oxygen, which is critical for getting the most out of rain events and ensuring soil biology and plants remain resilient in the face of dry conditions. Check out this article from the Natural Resources Conservation Service on how soil health principles can be applied to improve water infiltration and retention, effectively creating a "bank" for water to be stored in the soil.

Healthy soils are equipped to handle rainfall, absorbing water for future use by plants and soil biology. To compare the impacts of rain on soils under different management practices, check out this video of a rainfall simulator demonstration.

The experts at Integrity Soils lay out guidelines for managing to improve rainfall use in this blog post:

Managing to improve rainfall use efficiency includes focusing on:
  • Maintaining living ground cover
  • Growing a diverse range of annual and perennial plants to enable rain to be used when it falls
  • Managing for high soil organic matter
  • Nurturing soil biological activity to maintain soil health
  • Avoiding practices that lead to compaction
  • Improving soil structure
  • Slowing transpiration by maintaining shelter
  • Matching land use to land capability
  • Protecting riparian areas

If you have questions on how to manage rainfall on your property, or how to manage for soil health, please contact your local Resource Conservation District or reach out to us at [email protected].
Rainfall simulator demonstration presented by Dr. Zahangir Kabir, NRCS Regional Soil Health Specialist.
NRCS Agronomist Ray Archuleta demonstrates a simple way to test the health and stability of your soil.
Listening and Learning Opportunities
Listen: Inside Winemaking Interview with Miguel Garcia

Our very own Miguel Garcia (Sustainable Agriculture Program Manager at Napa RCD) was interviewed on the Inside Winemaking podcast. Tune in to hear Miguel discuss biochar, efforts to engage Spanish-speaking farmers, and soil carbon sequestration.
Watch: How much C sequestration can organic amendments achieve?

At the 2021 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Dr. Rebecca Ryals presented on the impacts of organic soil amendments and implications for soil carbon storage.
Resources: Recordings from the 2021 Soil and Nutrition Conference
The BioNutrient Food Association hosted their 10th annual Soil and Nutrition Conference in 2021. The conference was packed with amazing speakers and all the recordings are available on their Youtube page. Here is a talk from Nicole Masters we particularly enjoyed!
Funding Opportunities
New Funding for the Alternative Manure Management Program Available in Early 2022

Find out more in this announcement from our partners at CalCAN.
Upcoming Events
CAFF California Small Farm Conference

Event Description: Get inspired! The California Small Farm Conference is back, featuring a virtual bounty of online webinars, forums, and videos showcasing farmers, advocates and experts from across the golden state. With pay-what-you-can admission, you can join fellow farmers, ranchers and agricultural activists as we celebrate food communities, explore ways to grow together, and share experiences and knowledge. From water resilience and everyday practical tips, to trailblazing women and equity in agriculture, pollinators, mycorrhizal fungi and more, the lineup this year is teeming with practical and energizing content to help you grow in your field. 

February 27-March 3, 2022
Sacramento Valley Cover Crop Tour

Event Description: Join the Western Cover Council and UCCE for a tour of several cover crop sites including orchards and annual crop fields. Cover crop species, cultivars and mixes including legumes, grasses and brassicas will be showcased.

You’ll hear from farmers, extension specialists, and researchers on topics such as cover crop selection, equipment to manage cover crops, considerations for cover crop
management, and building soil health.

March 3, 2022
8:00am - 7:30pm
$50 Registration fee

Soil Health Innovations Conference: Soil for Water

Event Description: Mark your calendars for NCAT’s second Soil Health Innovations Conference, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, March 15 and 16, 2022. This will be a virtual conference, offering plenty of networking opportunities with presenters and fellow attendees.

Join NCAT to hear from presenters such as David Montgomery of the University of Washington and Dig2Grow, Alejandro Carillo of UnderstandingAg, and agroforestry expert Dr. Hannah Hemmelgarn.

Watch NCAT's conference website for a complete agenda and registration information.

March 15-16, 2022
Job Announcements
Network Coordinator, National Healthy Soils Policy Network

California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN)
Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Program Manager

California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD)