The Healthy Soils Program (HSP) stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments to promote the development of healthy soils on California's farmlands and ranchlands. The HSP Incentives Program provides financial assistance for implementation of conservation management that improve soil health, sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The HSP Demonstration Projects showcase California farmers and rancher's implementation of HSP practices.
After CDFA’s careful study and analysis of our application, Monterey Pacific, Inc was awarded a grant that helped us fund two exciting projects: one at McIntyre Vineyard and the other at Brayden Vineyard. In partnership with the Xerces Society, we created a customized plant list consisting of species that were appropriate with each site and worked well with our climate. We were able to plant a hedgerow with native drought resistant plants like Milkweed, Salvia, Elderberry, and Manzanita, to name a few. We also planted a cover crop with a mix of flowering annuals and perennials to attract beneficial insects and to provide nectar year-round for pollinators.
These efforts, planting hedgerow and cover crops, will enhance our biodiversity within the vineyard and provide habitat for endangered pollinators and food sources for beneficial insect population. Increasing our biodiversity allows us to reduce our need for pesticides because we will rely on biological controls for the pests and weeds.
Now that we’ve been able to plant the hedgerow and cover crops, we will follow the growth and transformation of the agro-ecosystem in the years to come. As we follow its growth, we can compare the cover cropped rows with the unplanted rows in our other vineyards and witness the effect of natural predators on the pest populations. We will also be tracking the GHG reduction in the soil.
We hope to see immediate benefits within these first few years. A burst in the insect population, will increase the bird population, which feeds on these insects. Since we have a year round cover crop, which we mow instead of till, this keeps carbon sequestered in the soil and enhances microbial activity. And as time progresses, the rest of the ecosystem will restore itself as long as we maintain the hedgerow and cover crops.
We are excited to see this beautiful transformation of our agro-ecosystem for years to come!