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 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.
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.
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.
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)
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 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
Vegetative Barriers (feet)
Herbaceous Wind Barriers (feet)
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.
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.
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.
This is a very comprehensive guidebook for on-farm use to build healthy soils.
SARE (Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education) publication recently updated.
The Council makes available a range of articles on cover crops, no-till and other agricultural 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other equipment that would enhance carbon sequestration programs
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 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.
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.
Type in your location and select values from the list, input acreage and selected practices to receive an instant carbon potential estimate at AGORO.
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 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