Practices & Equipment


There is a range of scientifically accepted practices to achieve healthy soils and carbon sequestration.  This section will detail practices to be used on the land to  achieve healthy soils and the equipment that will help implement them.  The practices will vary based upon the ecosystem to which they apply (e.g., grazing, cultivated agriculture, forestry, or other landscapes).  There’s an in-depth article HERE


The Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) began work on natural climate solutions for Oregon’s natural and working lands several years ago. That work was captured in a comprehensive policy document, Natural and Working Lands Proposal” (2021).

Oregon Global Warming Commission

The OGWC* worked in coordination with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to develop and submit the proposal for setting a carbon sequestration and storage goal for Oregon’s natural and working lands.

*In 2023 the Oregon Legislature changed the name of the Commission to the Oregon Climate Action Commission (OCAC).

In September 2023, following the work of the Commission’s advisory committee and a group of technical committees, the Commission commissioned  a new document outlining practices to implement portions of the earlier policy document: A Roadmap to Enhance Carbon Sequestration and Storage and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Oregon’s Natural  Working Lands.”  That report will be linked here when available by the end of September. 


Agricultural Carbon Programs: From Program Chaos to Systems Change, the American Farmland Trust in coordination with Sierra View Solutions, analyze the current state of agricultural carbon programs and recommended strategic changes toward program success with a focus on cropland.


Oregon’s Land Use Statues Laws and Rules – Protection of our valued natural resource lands for agriculture, forestry and other land management needs provides the basis for promoting carbon sequestration by protecting these lands from development. See statewide goals.


NRCS has been working with farmers and ranchers since its inception as a federal agency in 1935 following the historic ravages of the dust bowl days. NRCS provides technical services through a myriad of programs to combat climate change impacts.

These programs are now part of “climate-smart” management practices for which the agency provides technical services.

NRCS Practice Guidelines for Cover Crops

See guidelines for NRCS practices here.

Are Cover Crops Worth the Cost?

When Brad Zimmerman decided to try growing cover crops 10 years ago, the Groveland, Illinois, corn and soybean farmer had a list of worries: “I was concerned about the cost, the time it would require, the possibility that the cover crop wasn’t going to grow, and the possible yield drag on my cash crops,” he says. But Zimmerman reasoned that cover crops could improve the soil biology. This could improve his cropping system’s efficiency, thus reducing synthetic fertilizer inputs over the long term. He took the plunge and hasn’t looked back. He added cover crops on a small scale, learned from his mistakes, and took advantage of cost sharing through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The long-term benefits to his cropping system have been well worth the effort. Soil organic matter has improved along with other soil health improvements, resulting in cost savings due to reduced applications of synthetic fertilizers.

Concerns about cost are among farmers’ top four reasons for not growing cover crops. In a recent book “Cover Crops: Improving Life on the Land,” author Myers, relates surveys and data supporting the process and defining the economics. “In the first one or two years, you may see a reduction in net profit,” Myers says. “But on the third year, you may start to break even as a result of better soil health, leading to higher cash crop yields. By the fifth year, you may start to see a positive net profit because of gradually increasing yield benefits generated by cover crops combined with reduced applications of fertilizer or herbicide, or reduced need for tillage.” “In a six-year period between soil tests, we’ve increased soil organic matter from 2.7% to 3.3%,” he says. “A higher level of organic matter is the reason our soil is more productive. The soil is able to release more nutrients and retains water better, so that the plants are better able to withstand dry periods. We can raise crops with reduced inputs.”

See also: NACD article about the book and farmer results

You Tube presentation by Dr. Myers


See the full chart HERE  of available programs and additional practices on nutrient management, grazing and pastureland. Practices vary based on the land sector (agriculture, forestry, wetlands etc.). Soil health practices are listed below.


Conservation Practice Standard Name[2] (units)

Enhancement Code

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Bundle and Enhancement Activity




Buffer Bundle#1*


Cropland soil health management system*


Climate smart advanced soil health*


Conservation Cover (acres)


Conservation cover for pollinators and beneficial insects


Establish Monarch butterfly habitat


Conservation Crop Rotation (acres)


Resource conserving crop rotation


Improved resource conserving crop rotation


Soil health crop rotation


Modifications to improve soil health and increase soil organic matter


Crop rotation on recently converted CRP grass/legume cover for soil organic matter improvement


Intercropping to improve soil health


Perennial grain crop conservation rotation


Residue and Tillage Management, No Till (acres)


No till to reduce soil erosion


No till to reduce tillage induced particulate matter


No till to increase plant-available moisture


No till system to increase soil health and soil organic matter content


No till to reduce energy


Contour Buffer Strips (acres)

None Available


Cover Crop (acres)


Cover crop to reduce soil erosion


Intensive cover cropping to increase soil health and soil organic matter content


Use of multi-species cover crops to improve soil health and increase soil organic matter


Intensive orchard/vineyard floor cover cropping to increase soil health


Cover crop to minimize soil compaction


Cover crop to reduce water quality degradation by utilizing excess soil nutrients


Cover crop to suppress excessive weed pressures and break pest cycles


Using cover crops for biological strip till



Residue and Tillage Management, Reduced Till (acres)


Reduced tillage to reduce soil erosion


Reduced tillage to reduce tillage induced particulate matter


Reduced tillage to increase plant-available moisture


Reduced tillage to increase soil health and soil organic matter content


Reduced tillage to reduce energy use


Field Border (acres)


Enhanced field borders to reduce soil erosion along the edge(s) of a field


Enhanced field borders to increase carbon storage along the edge(s) of the field


Enhanced field borders to decrease particulate emissions along the edge(s) of the field


Enhanced field borders to increase food for pollinators along the edge(s) of a field


Filter Strips (acres)


Extend existing filter strip to reduce water quality impacts


Grassed Waterways (acres)


Enhance a grassed waterway


Mulching (acres)


Mulching to improve soil health


Reduce particulate matter emissions by using orchard or vineyard generated woody materials as mulch


Reduce particulate matter emissions by using orchard or vineyard generated woody materials as mulch


Stripcropping (acres)

None Available


Vegetative Barriers (feet)


Herbaceous Wind Barriers (feet)

The Economics of No-Till Farming

The potential benefits of no-till practices are well-documented, from improving soil health to reducing annual fuel and labor investments. For example, no-till processes can save 4 gallons per acre over tilled farm methods.

NRCS Conservation Effects Assessment Project CEAP) details practices and benefits.

New Cover Crop Survey Challenges Assumptions

The new national survey report finds the vast majority of farmers using cover crops don’t need incentive payments to continue those practices.

According to the National Cover Crop Survey  90.3% of famers receiving cover crop incentives reported that they would definitely or probably continue planting cover crops after payments ended. These findings were among many conclusions drawn in a report, issued jointly by SARE, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), based on insights from nearly 800 farmers in 49 states.

Valuing Environmental Benefits of Conservation Management Actions

The economic and social value to the public of enhanced environmental benefits resulting from conservation practices are in addition to how conservation practices enhance agricultural productivity and increase private economic value to the farmer/rancher. This analysis focuses exclusively on the value to the public of environmental benefits.

Comprehensive Guidebook for Building Soils (SARE)

This is a very comprehensive guidebook for on-farm use to build healthy soils.

Climate Smart Mitigation Activities

Nature Based Solutions

PowerPoint discussing nature based solutions, co-benefits and ecosystem management. View HERE.

Managing Cover Crops Profitability

Western Cover Crops Council

The Council makes available a range of articles on cover crops, no-till and other agricultural practices.

National Wildlife Federation Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices

Fully implementing CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE PRINCIPLES could remove as much as 100-200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2050.

Improved Grazing Management on a 500 acre ranch can sequestser 208 metric tons of CO2 equivalent each year.

Rotational Grazing can increase pasture profitability,water storage, and wildlife habitat.

Cover Crops help reduce soil erosion and can increase crop yields.

Soil Management Practices could remove over 2 gigatons of CO2 from our atmosphere by 2050 (equal to emissions from burning 225 billion gallons of gasoline).

Buffer Strips help improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.

Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network

Lay of the Land and Levers for Change: Farming for Climate Resilience. 

What does an agricultural economy resilient to a changing climate in Oregon look like?

What is already happening in Oregon to make this vision a reality?

How do farmers and ranchers need and want to improve their operations?

Where are the gaps in research and Technical support for farmers? This report shares what has been heard.

Grasslands Management


One-third of the world’s carbon is tamed by grass.  Landowners will eventually be paid for carbon storage and other environmental benefits that grasslands and pastures provide.  Third parties reap the economic benefits grasslands provide, including watershed management, wildlife habitat and pollinators for grain production.

  Grasslands called key to carbon future | The Western Producer

Climate Corps Launched

As part of President Biden’s American Climate Corps, USDA launches the Working Lands Climate Corps to Train Future Conservation and Climate Leaders on Climate-Smart Agriculture. The Working Lands Climate Corps will provide technical training and career pathway opportunities for young people, helping them deliver economic benefits through climate-smart agriculture solutions for farmers and ranchers across the country, now and in the future. The Working Lands Climate Corps, in its first cohort, will aim to create service opportunities for more than 100 young people. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working in partnership with AmeriCorps, The Corps Network and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) in this effort. To date, more than 50,000 people have expressed interest in joining the American Climate Corps. To learn more, visit the Corps Network site

Other Practices:

When manure is handled as a solid or deposited on pastures, nitrous oxide production increases while little or no methane is emitted. Management of timing, rate, and amount of nutrients and amendments to soil can reduce climate impacts, promoting soil health.

Anaerobic digestion is another relevant tool.

Proper composting of waste can reduce the dependence on chemical fertilizers, help recover soil fertility and improve water retention and the delivery of nutrients to plants.

Using alternative application methods to reduce the amount of irrigation water is also beneficial to soil health.

Biosolids produced at wastewater treatment facilities are extensively used on agricultural
land to improve soil health and soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks.

Developing or extending riparian areas along streams can add to soil health and sequestration opportunities, including increasing woody plant coverage.

bio char

Climate change mitigation not only requires reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also the withdrawal of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from the
atmosphere. Biochar, carbon rich charcoal-like remnants of super-heated organic matter (pyrolyzed biomass) is a hard material added to soil to provide a resilient air trap that helps in the spread of oxygen and nutrients to plant roots.

US Biochar Initiative

What are the benefits of pasture management?   One study found that farms participating in sustainable agriculture practices like rotational grazing produced 19% fewer emissions than non-participating farms in the first two years, dropping to 35% fewer emissions after participating for longer than two years.  W.K. Kellog Farm’s Pasture Dairy Center uses a rotational grazing strategy to mitigate emissions.


  • No till-drill in various sizes, crop and/or pastureland
  • Tractor with horsepower required for drill towing
  •  Roller crimper, flail, or sickle bar for terminating cover crop growth without using pesticides
  •  Soil coring devices for determining soil quality
  • Aerators

Other equipment that would enhance carbon sequestration programs

  • Pickup or other truck to house and take hydraulic core samples down to 100 centimeters
  • Comet computer software to measure potential carbon
  • Electric farm vehicles
blue tractor

Electric Tractor from Solectrac Partners Forth, Wy’East RC&D, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Sustainable Northwest and Rusted Gate Farm are taking part in a demo of electrifying equipment for fuel and maintenance savings and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The vehicles will be rotated to different geographic areas within the state.


A number of SWCDS own equipment that can enhance soil and water conservation practices. Below is an example of one district’s equipment and rental pricing.

Clackamas SWCD Equipment Rental Program


Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District offers an Equipment Rental Program which makes a variety of agricultural equipment available at reasonable prices to Clackamas. Equipment is also available at Yamhill, Jackson, Grant, Tualatin, and Malheur SWCDs, among others. The ODA SWCD Directory provides contact information for a Conservation Districts in each county.

Computer Based Equipment that Can Identify Carbon Potential

Comet Farm

Comet Farm Video, USDA’s online carbon-capture calculator is a computer tool with which producers enter information about their land and management, including location, soil characteristics, land uses, tillage practices and nutrientuse. The tool then estimates how much carbon soil could capture on cropland, pasture and rangeland, and livestock operations. It also has an agro-forestry component.

Calculate Your Carbon Potential

Type in your location and select values from the list, input acreage and selected practices to receive an instant carbon potential estimate at AGORO.

FAST-GHG Soil Tool

This is a fertilizer and soil tool designed to help quantify greenhouse gas emissions in crop production developed by Cornell faculty in partnership with researchers at Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy, FAST-GHG quantifies how soil management practices can reduce greenhouse gas emissions using the online calculator.

Soils Revealed

Soils Revealed is a platform for visualizing how past and future management changes soil organic carbon stocks based on available soil data, information about the environment and computer simulations over time. The project involves collaboration with a number of partners.


Cornell University Working Lands Resources
Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ website dedicated to helping  farmers, forest owners and policymakers find meaningful ways to Reduce Greenhouse Gases (GHG) from the land—includes a variety of resources and tools. While some of the resources are relative
to NY, a number of resources can be applied more broadly.

Farming with Soil Life
Adaptation resources for agriculture response to climate variability and change: USDA, Xerces Society and SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and  Education)

Empowering Farmers with Regional Farm Equipment
AB 552
promotes a program that would be housed at the CA Department of Food and Agriculture in coordination with the Department of Conservation and would include a small farms advisory committee. 

The Case for Carbon Farming in California – High Country News

Can Dirt Save the Earth? – NY Times

What Regenerative Agriculture Can Do for the Climate – “Yes” magazine