The US Department of Agriculture announced a new round of grants to support climate-smart agricultural practices, and $1.5 million is earmarked for Merced.
The team, led by University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Merced research specialist Tapan Pathak, is one of six public entities to share $9 million in grants from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. (NIFA). The purpose of the investment is to strengthen climate research and connect with the farming community.
For Pathak, climate-smart agriculture means helping a A $50 billion industry cope with future changes while mitigating risks by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption. “The threats of climate change are real and if we’re ever going to be competitive, I think adaptation is the key to getting there,” Pathak said. “How can we integrate all these different aspects while being productive and economically viable? And that’s how I define climate-smart agriculture. »
Many such tools are already in use, including hardier crop varieties, cover crops, and soil conservation practices like reduced tillage. But one of the goals of the Pathak grant is to find new ways to bring these tools to socially disadvantaged growers who may not have access to new research and technology, while also reaching out to larger growers. industrialists with more resources. “This type of grant is extremely critical to expanding our reach and solving the problems faced by farmers and ranchers across the state,” Pathak said. “Our hope is to develop tools that can help growers make strategic decisions to minimize some of the risk. »
Pathak shares the grant with co-principal investigators from UC Davis, Cooperative Extensions County, and a new USDA climate hub in California. They plan to use the funding to distribute surveys to develop a needs assessment within the farming community, develop climate-smart workshops for growers as well as technical service providers, and even create new university classes to bring tools and research to the next generation of growers. This will include a summer institute at UC Merced as well as courses at other undergraduate institutions “to prepare them, not only in terms of academic or technical information, but also to make them interact with stakeholders, understand their views on climate change, and work on more practical and applicable research and extension,” Pathak said.
“These new NIFA-funded projects will aim to achieve net-zero emissions in agriculture, working lands and climate-adapted communities, by training a diverse workforce who can communicate and integrate climate change considerations. management and climate justice adapted to unique American agronomic conditions. “, NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille said in a USDA news release about the funding.
“The USDA Cooperative Extension System and Climate Hubs have an unparalleled ability to reach agricultural, tribal, and underserved communities, as well as educators and students, and farmers in our country directly,” said the Secretary. to Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in the press release. “This partnership will strengthen climate research efforts and accelerate the development, adoption and application of science-based, climate-smart practices that benefit everyone.