Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

We Were Awarded a 2023 California Climate Action Matching Grant


The Center for Regenerative Agriculture & Resilient Systems (CRARS), with the Colleges of Agriculture(opens in new window) and Natural Sciences(opens in new window) at California State University, Chico (CSU, Chico) together with multiple collaborating partner institutions, is pleased to announce that we have received a California Climate Action Matching grant totaling approximately $6 million through an historic partnership between the University of California and the state of California. Over $80 million in climate action grants were awarded to support the implementation of solutions that directly address state climate priorities.

The grant received will fund the California Soil Carbon Accrual Project and Workforce Training Program designed to conduct on-farm research, remote sensing modeling technologies, and provide professional workforce training throughout California. In explaining the impact, project lead and CRARS director Cindy Daley said, "We are thrilled to have been awarded the California Climate Action grant. These funds will be instrumental in moving our climate goals forward as a campus, and as a regional partner working toward a higher degree of preparedness. Climate change is upon us, and no one feels the effects more than production agriculture. It's imperative that we develop more effective farming strategies that build resilience for future food security, and create a work-force that is climate literate, with the skills and knowledge to manage these changes into the future."

The purpose of the project is to address soil erosion, degradation, and diminished water availability, all critical issues facing California agriculture. The evidence suggests that regenerative farming practices can reduce soil disturbance, increase soil organic matter, improve water-holding capacity, reduce crop inputs, enhance soil biological function and microbial diversity, and support the accumulation, or accrual, of soil carbon. This multi-sector, multi-disciplinary project will tackle these issues through three interlocking activities:

1) The Soil Carbon Accrual Project(opens in new window) (SCAP) is designed to holistically compare carbon cycling associated with the standard or conventional farming system (full tillage; herbicide; fertilizers; pesticides; no cover) to a regenerative farming system (cover crops; no-till or conservation till; crop rotations) using eddy covariance tower technology and soil microbiological DNA probes to quantify the impacts on soil carbon accrual, soil microbial diversity, water use efficiency, nutrient density, and economic return.

2) The California Agriculture Resiliency Index uses sustainability factors (e.g., water resources; soil quality; water use; erodibility factors; groundwater recharge value; existing land uses; wildlife habitat potential; endangered species habitat) to predict long-term resiliency for agricultural regions and suitability for diversified farming systems within the State. The model is being collaboratively developed with the Chico State Geographical Information Center.

3) The online Technical Assistance Provider Training and Professional Certificate Program(opens in new window) in Climate Smart/Regenerative Agriculture Practices & Implementation is designed to increase the availability of technical assistance to support rapid transition of California farms and ranches to climate-smart agricultural practices. New courses will include Carbon Farm Planning, Pollinator Habitat, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

Project investigators hail from the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Agriculture at CSU Chico, as well as CSU East Bay in addition to our farmer partners Hay Day Farm in Blythe, Bowles Farm in Los Banos, Josiassen Family Farms in Richvale, and the Chico State University Farm.

Other project collaborators include the CSU Chico Geographical Information Center, the California Association of Resource Conservation Service, the Carbon Cycle Institute, Buzz’s Bees (let’s save our pollinators!), the Honeybee Discovery Center and the Modoc Nation. The Modoc Nation partnership will be instrumental in carrying our shared climate goals into the most northern regions of the state on tribal lands.

The eddy covariance tower technology (also known as flux towers) are an important capability provided by the funding for this project. Chico State professor John Knowles explained that "they allow us to monitor the ‘breathing’ of agricultural systems in real time. In particular, this project will apply them to test how regenerative vs. conventional management practices affect the potential for these systems to function as carbon sinks that remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere, which could really help out in the fight against climate change."

Cindy Daley reiterated that point. “By establishing on-farm direct contrasts between farming strategies we will collect critical soil carbon accrual data to better inform the agricultural industry and our policy makers. More directly, this field data will inform participants in our Climate Smart Technical Assistance Program so that it can be disseminated immediately to those individuals working directly with our farmers and ranchers throughout the state.”