Globally, soil contains three times more carbon than all of earth's vegetation and twice the amount currently in the atmosphere – and it has the potential to store more.
At International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), we have recognized this potential, but like many others in the agriculture sector have been challenged by a lack of data on how climate-smart practices affect soil carbon. Many wineries have been testing new practices in their vineyards, but without robust evidence, we have limited understanding of how these practices could work at scale.
Quantifying the Impacts of Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices
Over the past several years, Jackson Family Wines, a co-founding member of IWCA, collaborated with The Soil Inventory Project (TSIP) to collect soil samples at a handful of their estate vineyard properties in California and quantify the impact that regenerative farming has on vineyard systems. As part of that work, they developed carbon maps that enabled Jackson Family Wines to visualize the distribution of carbon, validate their climate-smart land management practices, and influence future farming management decisions.
A Partnership to Improve Understanding and Drive Change
This successful collaboration among TSIP and Jackson Family Wines inspired both organizations to find ways to expand this research across the wine industry through additional grant funding. They worked together over the past several months with IWCA and a consortium of partners to secure $20 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a part of the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities. The goal: to implement, measure, and drive adoption of climate-smart farming practices across 120,000 US acres.
TSIP and its partners – Jackson Family Wines, IWCA, Nature For Justice, The Glynwood Center for Regional Food & Farming, Corteva, Inc., and Vayda – will use grant funding over the next five years to:
provide technical assistance and financial support to farmers applying climate-smart land management
measure and monitor soil carbon sequestration using a standardized, simplified, cost-effective method
model long-term impacts on crop yields and other climate benefits
The effort will help fill significant gaps in data and understanding while building market demand and tools to help farmers and land managers overcome climate-smart transition costs. “Coupling soil measurements with regional modeling of soil organic carbon baselines is critical to understanding the impacts of practices on soil health, crop yields and climate benefits,” says TSIP co-founder and Chief Science Officer Dr. Bruno Basso. “TSIP is well-positioned to engage a wide range of stakeholders in better understanding the value of soil carbon sequestration and its co-benefits in building resilient and sustainable agricultural systems at large.”
What this Partnership Means for IWCA Members
In 2023, IWCA members in the United States will be eligible to apply for TSIP funding to both measure soil carbon within their vineyards and receive payment for implementing specific climate smart practices in their operations.
While final budgets are still being determined with the USDA, it is anticipated that there will be up to $2 million eligible for IWCA members to participate over a 5-year term, and the TSIP application process will be open to all IWCA members beginning in early 2023.
“It is incredibly exciting that IWCA members will be able to receive funding to implement carbon sequestration practices and benefit from cutting-edge advancements in measuring soil organic carbon,” says Aaron Stainthorp, Director of Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines who led the proposal development with TSIP. “This allows IWCA members to get paid to practice what we preach and unlock new opportunities to show the promise of regenerative farming.”
We are grateful to the IWCA wineries participating in this exciting effort, including those who provided support throughout the competitive proposal process: A to Z Wineworks, Cakebread Cellars, Crimson Wine Group, Hunt Country Vineyards, Jackson Family Wines, Medlock Ames, Ridge Vineyards, Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars, and Spottswoode Estate and Vineyard & Winery.