Get to Know an RCD: East Stanislaus RCD & Soil Health

Photo of the San Joaquin River

East Stanislaus RCD (ESRCD) is a 984 square mile district located in the Bay-Delta region east of the San Joaquin River, with an office in Modesto, CA. They have active programs that benefit farmers, ranchers, and watersheds, and cultivate a thriving Soil Health Hub comprised of other RCDs, landowners, researchers, and partners. ESRCD will be hosting their Soil Health Summit on November 14, 2018 at the 73rd Annual CARCD Conference in San Diego to facilitate exchange and dissemination of new information around soil health. Their soil health demonstration plots span California, and double as research sites for growers and ranchers.

The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) reached out to Jeff Borum, ESRCD’s Soil Health Conservationist, about some of their recent work related to soil health.

Compost Field Trials

Much of Jeff’s time is spent visiting the seventeen USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) compost field trial sites scattered strategically throughout California. The sites are located on rangelands as far north as Mendocino County and as far south as San Diego, and represent varying climatic zones and soil types in order to study the application of compost on diverse rangelands.

The first application of compost was in 2016. The work is funded under the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Specialty Crop Block Grant. The studies are in collaboration with Wendy Sivers, a soil health researcher with UC Berkeley, and with Josh Schiml from UC Santa Barbara. They look at soil and measure the nutrient analysis, water holding capacity, water infiltration, bulk density, soil carbon, pH, nematode ecology, microbe community, and more. Parts of the study will end in the later part of this year, but Jeff knows there would be value in extending the research: “I’m really hoping to have the study going for a few decades, because when you’re looking at carbon and nitrogen in soil, weather and precipitation causes so much variation year to year that it would be worthwhile to test every 3-5 years, and then looking at those data points on a 25-30 year timescale.” He notes that a gratifying part of his work is the overall cultural exchange around soil health that happens when ranchers, researchers, and city officials find common ground around soil health.

Soil Health Summit

ESRCD recognizes that this cultural exchange is integral for adoption by producers, for ongoing research, and for the dissemination of soil health research and practices. The initial Soil Health Summit was kicked off January 2016 by CDFA, NRCS, and ESRCD and brought over 200 soil health stakeholders together to discuss opportunities for funding and collaboration at the State and local levels. The Soil Health Summit is platform for soil health practitioners to discuss new research and programatic opportunities in the field, develop new and novel partnerships, to disseminate ideas, and help bring soil health to the forefront of public discourse.

This event will mark the third Soil Health Summit, which is put on in collaboration with East Stanislaus RCD, NRCS, and CARCD. The event is free and will take place on Wednesday, November 14 during the 73rd Annual CARCD Conference. The Soil Health Summit is free and features technical trainings, education and outreach techniques, small group project discussions, and networking with soil health professionals. The general audience will be farmers, ranchers, soil scientists, and technical advisors, and is open to anyone else with an interest in attending. Please register to attend here.

ESRCD’s soil health work extends to cover cropping demonstrations, creating a carbon farming network, and soil erosion mitigation. Read more about East Stanislaus RCD’s projects and programs here.