Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

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Soil Conservation in California: An analysis of the Healthy Soils Initiative


California is called the golden state, named for the gold trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains that drew desperate men like flies. Later, when the dream of easy wealth dried up, those same men moved to California’s Central Valley and planted wheat—acres and acres of it;[1] a different kind of gold. It turned out that California’s true wealth was in its soils, not in its precious metals.[2]

How do those soils fare today? Agricultural production has long served as a proxy for soil health, but it is an inaccurate proxy. Because top soil takes hundreds of years to form,[3] and erodes faster than the lifespan of civilizations but slower than the human lifespan, it is not the most immediate limiting factor upon agriculture nor the most visible.[4] This is especially true in California, where a fluctuating water supply dictates what and how much farmers can grow.

Moreover, California’s agriculture still flourishes, at least superficially. California remains the leading agricultural production state in the nation in terms of both value and crop diversity.[5] The counties within the San Joaquin Valley produce more food than any other comparably sized region in the world.[6] No other state, or combination of states, matches California’s productivity per hectare.[7] Stunning achievements all, but the continuing productivity of California’s agricultural sector has more to do with the Green Revolution’s miraculous technological trifecta: chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and controlled water supply[8] than with the health of the State’s soils.

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Danika Desai. Managing Editor, UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy.

This post is part of the Environmental Law Review Syndicate.


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Scientists identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organisms

Image result for archaea

The Earth is far more alive than previously thought, according to “deep life” studies that reveal a rich ecosystem beneath our feet that is almost twice the size of that found in all the world’s oceans.

Despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate this subterranean biosphere is teeming with between 15bn and 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet.

Researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory say the diversity of underworld species bears comparison to the Amazon or the Galápagos Islands, but unlike those places the environment is still largely pristine because people have yet to probe most of the subsurface.

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Source:  Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, December 10, 2018

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Is American Agriculture Prepared to the Tackle Climate Challenge?


The 4th National Climate Assessment – “Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States,” released by the Administration just after Thanksgiving, underscores the very real climate change-related challenges that American producers can expect to face in the coming years. The extensive report includes a close examination and peer reviewed analysis of the implications for agriculture across the country, including opportunities to adapt and contribute to mitigation. The findings and warnings of the National Climate Assessment are also supported by several other scientific reports published recently.

No less than 2 months ago, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 15th special report, which outlined the dire impacts of global warming 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. American family farmers and ranchers are already feeling the negative impacts of climate change on their livelihoods; many have lost crops, income, and even their entire operations because of severe floods, extreme heat and drought, and increased pressures from changing disease and pest patterns. Given the consequences of inaction, we must ensure that those on the frontlines have the tools they need to adapt to the effects of a changing climate and mitigate their contributions to it.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, November 30, 2018.

Paradise is Gone

The Camp Fire consumed Paradise, California

But maybe we should pause– scared, stricken, even devastated, and ask ourselves, what is in the air right now? What does this living animal body, this feeling, yearning, loving, sometimes tender animal, who is us (even if brave, even if assuredly able to carry on) feeling right now, in this moment? Not in some future moment when Paradise is rebuilt, but in this moment, right now, that Paradise is gone.

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Source:  Gabriel Kram, Medium, November 20, 2018

The Dollars and Cents of Soil Health: A Farmer’s Perspective

North Carolina farmer Russell Hedrick holding corn

Last year, the United States lost 2 million acres of land in active crop production. As the global population grows towards a projected 9.8 billion people by 2050, so too does demand for the food, fuel and fiber grown in America. The result? American farmers are looking for sustainable ways to produce high yields year after year.

To support this growing demand, many farmers are incorporating soil health management principles into their operations. Conservation practices such as cover crops and no-till are widely recommended to build soil health over time, but do these practices actually improve crop yields and lead to stable profit margins? To answer this question fully we will rely on universities, private scientists, government researchers and those most directly impacted: farmers themselves.

Meet Russell Hedrick

Russell Hedrick is a first-generation corn, soybean and specialty grains producer in Catawba County, North Carolina. Hedrick started in 2012 with 30 acres of row crops. Since then, he’s expanded to roughly 1,000 acres.

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Source:  Elizabeth Creech, Natural Resources Conservation Service in Conservation, March 12, 2018

Project Helps Grape Growers Use New Technology Effectively in Vineyards

At first glance, a vineyard might seem like a fairly predictable environment. But, think about all the variables in your growing area. Soil types can influence exactly how a canopy can perform, and that can impact yield. It’s not as simple as grapes hanging on a vine. As new technologies are developed to help automate vineyard production, it becomes increasingly important to understand how to use all the data generated.

The biggest challenge to integrating new technology has always been the question of how to use the data that is collected with sensors, drones, and other computer systems. And, this is where the Efficient Vineyard Project comes in.

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Source:  Christina Herrick, Growing Produce, October 28, 2018

The unseen driver behind the migrant caravan: climate change

Thousands of Central American migrants trudging through Mexico towards the US have regularly been described as either fleeing gang violence or extreme poverty.

But another crucial driving factor behind the migrant caravan has been harder to grasp: climate change.

Most members of the migrant caravans come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – three countries devastated by violence, organised crime and systemic corruption, the roots of which can be traced back to the region’s cold war conflicts.

Experts say that alongside those factors, climate change in the region is exacerbating – and sometimes causing – a miasma of other problems including crop failures and poverty.

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Source:  in New York, in Washington and in Huixtla, Mexico;  The Guardian, October 30, 2018