Notes on "Climate Solutions: Harnessing the Power of Local Agriculture" By Dr. Puja Batra

By Kylie Chow |
Riverside, Ca –

Climate Solutions: Harnessing the Power of Local Agriculture

Speaker: Puja Batra, PhD

UC-Riverside - Planetary Health Center

  • Research about the intersection between climate solution and agriculture
  • Works for San Diego County
  • Ecologist; Solves problems on sustainability
  • Academic background in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Began doing research in honey in India
  • Environmental conservation and eco-diversity
  • Economics of communities and making the research
  • Sustainable in water availability
  • Functioning systems recreating native systems; eco-systems


  • Organic Agriculture: focus on agro-ecological system as a whole. Specific metrics, methods. Heavy emphasis is on soil health.
  • Sustainable Agriculture:Considers integration of people/planet/profit. No fixed netrics, emphases vary within context.
  • Regenerative Agriculture: focus on restoring ecological health involving biodiversity and soil health
  • Climate-Smart Agriculture: focus on climate risks
  • Carbon Farming: focus on carbon sequestration on soil and vegetation
  • Some research is pointing to micro activity
  • Gas flux will tell you the gas reduction


Tackling Climate Change has 2 Parts:

Mitigation: Slowing down climate change by reducing its causes

Resilience: Maintaining key processes and bouncing back in the face of climate challenges

Climate-smart agriculture can help us do both!

  • Climate change challenges for agriculture can lead to even greater GHG emissions
  • Increasing cost of farming
  • Point of intervention is the soil

The Multiple Benefits of Carbon Farming

  • On one hand: Excessive carbon pollution in the atmosphere is causing climate change. 
  • On the other hand: Carbon is the substance that all living things are made of.
  • Figuring out the economics of making it viable to boost farmers’ livelihoods

Soil as Natural Climate

  • 4 per 1000 Initiative launched in 2015
  • Sustainable Development Goals
    • Goal 2: Zero hunger
    • Goal 13: Climate action
    • Goal 15: Life on hand
  • California
    • Policies aimed at rescuing landfilling of organic waste
    • Rangeland compost
    • Other states: NY, HI, MD, UT, OK, MA
    • Healthy soils grant is based on the tools that are provided and will be trusted
    • Reducing landfill reducing methane
    • Look at various aspects of vegetation and soil
    • Better in the long run

Mitigation Benefits of Carbon Farming

Carbon farming practices reduces levels of GHGs in the atmosphere. They do this in 3 ways…

  1. They reduce activities that cause GHG emission such as tillin, or using synthetic fertilizer
  2. They help plants grow, which locks in, or sequesters carbon for the lifetime of the plant
  3. They sequester carbon in the soil in forms such as ________
  • Grasslands will be better for carbon sequestering
  • Up to 40% of the carbohydrates can leak through the roots
  • Clumps of nonliving mineral…
  • The sponge structure is what helps it hold it
  • The fungi and bacteria helps acquire nutrients

Emerging Theories on Soil Consumption

  • Carbon is binding to the soil particle
    • Clay holds more carbon; the bigger particle
  • The surface area for binding the organic material

Resilience Benefits of Carbon Farming

  • Carbon farming can increase the resilience of a farming landscape
  • When you hold more water in the ground, the runoff is decreased.
  • Water quality benefit and groundwater benefits
  • Compost gives us an avenue to a way linked to …


Vision: San Diego County’s agricultural community is a key partner in developing a resilient, climate-friendly region

San Diego County has more small farms and certified organic farms than any other county in the US

  • The average age of a San Diego County farmer is 62 years old. Younger farmers are largely … first-time farmers
  • Highlight “ecosystem services” relationship between San Diego COunty and San Diego agriculture
  • Identify synergies that could help
  • How much net GHG reduction can be achieved through carbon farming in San Diego County?
  • What state and local policy synergies exist that are compatible with the gals of carbon farming? What funding mechanisms exists for conversion to carbon farming? What financial incentives?
  • Removal of 25% of orchard acreage has resulted in the loss of over 300,000 MTCO2e in the last decade
  • The increasing cost of farming
    • Nurseries have high transportation cost in San diego
    • Food production is decreasing; Framers are holding on to their farms but they are not contributing to food security


  • Conserve the existing agricultural carbon storage and sequestration by addressing root drivers behind the…
  • Compost applications on slope-amenable

Multiple Resilience Challenges

Stormwater flow


Agricultural water quality

Manure management

GHG mitigation

The Future of Farming: Barriers to Eating


  • Land access
  • Credit and capital
  • Business
  • Water
  • Training
  • Cumbersome processes for government assistance programs
  • Seize the opportunity for climate irrigation

Implementation of Strategies

  • Carbon Framing Task Force
    • Challenges: Root Causes: Water pricing
  • Mtiation vs. Resilience Trade-Offs
    • Resilience for who?
    • Climate resilience strategies - perennials
    • Economic resilience strategies - annuals, ornamentals
  • Water districts unable to make money
  • Slow down the loss of our climate-friendly orchards by addressing root causes
  • Create incentives that recognize the climate services provided by farmers
    • Challenges: Compost value chain - regulatory hurdles
      • Offsets - transactions cost, social justice objections, and real reductions
      • Mitigation fund - perverse incentive
      • Metrics for payment for ecological services

Ease major barriers and enable the new generation of farmers and ranchers to succeed at building a climate-sustainable agriculture

  • Challenges:
    • Property Values
    • Leasing vs. Owning
    • Local technical support availability
    • Certification vs. Mainstream