ag that Combats Climate Change


We all know that carbon is climate change's greatest villain. But farmers of the future could turn out to be one of the most important players in mitigating carbon's effects on the environment. How so? By following agricultural practices that help draw down carbon from the atmosphere and into the soil, thereby lessenin​g some of its effects in warming our planet.

These practices are part of an emerging initiative (and what may be the next big buzzword in food) called “regenerative agriculture" (RA), and Chico State is leading the charge in higher education with its newly established Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems.

“California's ag industry is uniquely poised to provide an economically feasible solution to reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere," says Cindy Daley, Ph.D., the center's director and a professor in Chico State's College of Agriculture. Regenerative agriculture includes the use of composts to build up organic matter, not turning (or tilling) the soil, and growing cover crops when cash crops are off-season to prevent erosion and benefit the soil. These practices help to increase soil biodiversity and sequester carbon from the atmosphere, keeping it in the ground.

The center's goal: to make regenerative agriculture mainstream. “We engage the farmers of the future through all the students we touch with our educational and applied research programs," Dr. Daley says. “I've had several students engaged in farming ask to become graduate students to learn about RA more deeply, so they can go back to the farm and apply this technology." The center offers a master's degree and is developing an online certificate in regenerative agriculture. In addition, several projects are in development that will allow area farmers to conduct their own research (with the center's support).

What does Daley envision for the future of agriculture in California? “[I see a] more resilient food and fiber system throughout the state. Where you drive up and down Interstate 5 in the fall and winter and see a sea of green cover crops rather than bare soil," she says. “Where plowing fields in fall becomes a thing of the past because farmers see the benefits of no-till and cover crops… It's a very different paradigm than the one we have currently." 

If adopted across the world, regenerative agricultural practices could sequester 52 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—equal to the amount of greenhouse gas emitted annually.