Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Major USDA Grant to Support Climate-Smart Agriculture

In September, the USDA announced a huge new pot of funding, sending $2.8 billion to 70 climate-smart agriculture projects. Each project aims, in its own way, to support the production of climate-smart commodities, which are defined as those that are produced using practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon. We’re excited to share that Point Blue will be a part of two groundbreaking awards totaling up to $55 million, with up to approximately $4 million in funding earmarked for Point Blue as the lead carbon monitoring partner.

Pont Blue scientists examine a soil sample as part of an effort to measure carbon sequestration on rangelands. Credit: Lishka Arata/Point Blue

Point Blue has over 50 years of experience creating and curating long-term ecological monitoring datasets that total over a billion observations. As part of this, our scientists have established a network of monitoring sites that capture ecological data on over 100 ranches across California. In partnership with these ranches, we’ve collected and analyzed thousands of soil samples to improve scientific understanding of soil carbon dynamics and inform adaptive land stewardship. More recently, we led the collaborative development of the Range-C Monitoring Program, which is designed to provide rigorous but accessible blueprints to monitor changes in rangeland carbon with the implementation of healthy soils practices like compost application, riparian restoration, or range seeding.

Cattle grazing on rangelands.

With this new funding from the USDA, we’ll be scaling the Range-C (and the forthcoming Crop-C) Program nationally, training technical service providers to measure the benefits of climate-smart practices in a way that can be tracked and verified through the supply chain. The ongoing data produced through these efforts will be invaluable for evaluating the efficacy of practices and programs and supporting continual improvement toward a climate-smart economy.

Specifically, Point Blue is part of a collaborative grant led by OpenTEAM (an initiative of Wolfe’s Neck Center) that will launch and support climate-smart agricultural pilot projects on farms and ranches in the Northeast, Mountain West, and California, primarily targeting dairy, rice, and other grains. This will provide land stewards, farmers, and ranchers with direct soil health planning and technical assistance to access financing for practice implementation such as cover cropping, managed grazing, or no-till planting. As part of this project, Point Blue will deploy the Range-C and Crop-C Monitoring Programs on 1,000 healthy soils implementation projects nationally. Point Blue will also work with partners at Maple Hill Creamery on a separately awarded grant to monitor carbon using the Range-C on farms in Maple Hill Creamery’s grass-fed dairy.

With this funding, we are thrilled to join forces with partners such as Zero Foodprint, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, American Farmland Trust, and Field to Market to help catalyze the production of climate-smart commodities. The more we can help farmers and ranchers track and communicate carbon benefits through the supply chain, support the adaptive management process, and better understand effective sustainable farming and ranching approaches, the more we can help put these practices into place around the world. Agriculture must be part of the climate solution and we are glad to see the USDA act in such a big way.