Six Barriers to Expanding Soil Health Practices in CA: Sustainable Conservation Releases 2023 Soil-Water Report



Christa Harader, Sustainable Conservation 

(415) 977-0130 x308, [email protected] 

Modesto, CA — December 4th, 2023 — Soil health is at once the foundation of productive farmland and a tool for conserving California’s valuable water resources. Our climate pendulum of extreme drought and floods means sustainable agriculture practices must be part of our solutions toolbox – especially in the state’s most water-restricted regions.

To help growers, water managers, and policymakers understand the direct and measurable positive impact of healthy soils on water sustainability, Sustainable Conservation published “Collaborative Solutions for California’s Climate-Resilient Agriculture: Harnessing the Water-Related Benefits of Soil.”

Six Barriers to Adoption

This report blends an in-depth literature review with an extensive grower survey that pinpoints six key, actionable barriers to widespread adoption of healthy soils practices.

By marrying research insights with on-the-ground perspectives, the report unveils the pivotal role soil health can play in building a more resilient water and climate future — while protecting California agriculture’s viability.

Soil Health is Our Health

Why “soil health” if Sustainable Conservation focuses on water? In our work to enhance water quantity, quality, and ecosystem health for all, soils are critical to each of these goals. Healthy soils not only improve water use efficiency and capture and store more water when it’s available, but also improve the quality of the water that our ecosystems and communities rely on.

Despite these benefits, and the momentum around soil health for carbon sequestration and human health, relatively little has been done to better understand and leverage the soil-water nexus.

Cultivating a Resilient Future

With only 5% of California’s arable land applying compost, planting cover crops, or reducing tillage, the potential impact of these practices at scale is enormous. This report is just one step on the road to a resilient water, climate, and agricultural future. Sustainable Conservation’s Solutions in our Soil program is dedicated to finding innovative solutions, furthering our collective learning, and overcoming barriers to promote and incentivize soil health.

The next steps will be taken together as we incorporate healthy soils’ water benefits into the great work of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local Resource Conservation Districts. Only by working across sectors, with partners new and old, and using the most up-to-date science, will we be able to make soil health practices accessible in California.

The Sustainable Conservation Solutions in our Soil team acknowledges the invaluable input from partners, growers, researchers, and interviewees that made the report possible.

About Sustainable Conservation 

Founded in San Francisco in 1993, Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air, and water. A sustainable water future for California that supports a thriving economy is achievable. But a future in which nature and people have access to clean, affordable, and reliable water is possible only by working with – not against – each other.

Every day, we bring together business, landowners, scientists, government, nonprofits and community representatives to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that are just and make economic sense. For more information and to connect with Sustainable Conservation, visit Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.