Soil Carbon Test Sites

Our community of regional land-managers have a significant and vital role to play at this time in human history. The latest publication by former NASA researcher and colleagues; James Hansen et. al, specifies that to reach our target for keeping earth’s temperature increases below 2 degrees C, we will need to move swiftly to deploy negative emissions strategies, including improved agricultural and forestry practices. Our strategy for building soil health focuses on regional geographies (food, water and fibershed scale). The Citizen Science Soil Sampling Protocol was developed in collaboration with UC Davis’s Gaudin Lab. This soil carbon testing method provides producers a tool for assessing how their management is effecting soil carbon stocks.

Jensen Ranch, photo by Paige Green

Once a producer has implemented the Citizen Science Protocol and received their results, they will have what is known as a soil carbon baseline figure that denotes the total organic carbon content in that soil type. Understanding soil carbon baseline is a useful number for a land manager to have reference to. This number is particularly helpful to have in hand prior to implementing a carbon farm plan, and or an individual practice known to enhance soil carbon levels. Understanding baseline will allow a land-manager to determine changes in soil carbon levels over time.

The good news is that we aren’t starting from scratch when we consider what practices to implement, we already know (based on the learning that took place after the Dust Bowl alone) what we can do to increase carbon capture on our landscapes, which in turn mitigates erosion, and increases water holding capacity in dry soils. For more information see our Carbon Farm Education Page.

While producers are encouraged to conduct their own sampling if possible, Fibershed offers to send technicians to conduct sampling for new producers and those who require assistance. For subsequent sampling, Fibershed offers to send technicians again 3-5 years after initial sampling, as it can take this long for the effects of new management to stabilize in the soil. While some programs (such as the CA Healthy Soils Program) require annual sampling, Fibershed offers support only every 3-5 years for a given site. If a producer wishes to take their own samples on an annual basis or otherwise, Fibershed technicians can offer training on the initial visit. If you are interested in taking your own samples and/or having technicians conduct soil sampling on your working lands, please contact with questions and to enroll in the program.

Soil Sampling Protocol How-to

Please download and read this instructional PDF: soil-sampling-protocol

And this form can be used to record your soil sampling data: soil-sampling-sheet-may2019

The instructional video below demonstrates the Soil Sampling Protocol.

Photos by Paige Green, Videography by Bright Path Video