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Resilient Roots

Climate-Smart Agriculture & Food Systems


Carbon Sink Demonstration Project

The Carbon Sink Demonstration Project at Pauma Tribal Farms is a project that works to test farming practices that drawdown carbon from the atmosphere. 


In collaboration with the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians and Solidarity Farm, the project serves a dual purpose of working to help demonstrate how carbon sink farming practices can be applied under Southern California conditions to benefit farmers and support climate mitigation and resilience efforts.

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This project was presented at the 2020 San Diego Climate Summit


This demonstration project expands the Tribe’s carbon farming efforts by implementing and disseminating information about five carbon sink farming practices: cover cropping, compost application, hedgerow installation, no-till and transition from row crops to trees. In addition to implementing these practices, this project will gather and analyze data from these carbon farming practices, including data on soil moisture, drought tolerance, and groundwater. 


By demonstrating the synergies between healthy food production systems and climate action, this endeavor catalyzes climate innovation, education, and farming in San Diego County.

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This demonstration project is made possible by the California Coastal Conservancy and California Department of Food and Agriculture.


Pauma Tribal Farms is located just outside the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians Reservation on 87 acres in the San Luis Rey Watershed in northwest San Diego County. The Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians purchased the farm in 2005, and they manage the farm with their tenants, the Solidarity Farm, which is a worker-owned cooperative that has started to implement carbon farming on the land that they lease from the Tribe. 


You are on Luiseño Land

The Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians and our ancestors have lived in the Pauma Valley and surrounding area since time immemorial. Our ancestors are buried here, we raise our children here, and this is where our future generations will continue to live and prosper. The traditional territory of the Luiseño people extends along the coast, from the north near San Juan Capistrano, south to the Encinitas/Carlsbad area and east to the Valleys of the coastal mountains and Mt. Palomar. Today this area is in northern San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties. The Luiseño people enjoyed life in a land rich with diverse plants and animals. Our people have been described as hunters and gatherers. We are the original caretakers of this land. We have a special interdependent connection with the plants and animals. We take care of them and they take care of us. As is the case with all Native Americans; Euro-American contact, interaction and forced assimilation during the past two centuries brought immense changes to our land, people and way of life. Like our ancestors, we rely on the strength of our culture and our community to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. Triumphantly, we are still here, not merely surviving, but thriving in the same homeland of our ancestors.


The Pauma and other Luiseño peoples are world renown for their expertise in coiled baskets made from the flora of the region. - Yucca (Panaa'al): used as basket start - Deergrass (Yuulalash): used as inner bundle - Juncus (Soyla): used as thread to wrap around bundle - Sumac (na'qwut): used as thread to Zrap around bundles Basket uses: storage, gathering, leaching, cooking, basket hat, ceremonies, etc.


Women gathered seeds, roots, wild berries, acorns, wild grapes, strawberries, wild onions and prickly pear in finely woven baskets. The men hunted deer, antelope, rabbits, woodrats, ducks, quail, seafood and various insects. Hunters used bows and arrows, spear throwers, rabbit sticks, traps, nets, clubs and slings to catch game. Fishermen and traders used dugout canoes in the ocean and tule reed boats or rafts in the rivers and lakes. Family groups had specific hunting and gathering areas in the mountains and along the coast. - Walnut - Buckwheat (wulaqla) - Sugarbush (paanaqwut) - Chokecherry (chaamish) - Prickly pear (naavut) - Yucca (panaa'al)


- Sages - Elderberry - Coffeeberry - Tobacco - Yerba santa - Mugwort - Wiillows - Big Bush Sagebrush


Hedgerow and Windbreak

In our 5,000 linear feet of hedgerow planting we worked with over 40 Native plant species that meet the drought and frost tolerance for this site. The 40 Native plant species also create bloom periods 10 months out the year. Providing pollinator forage to maintain healthy pollinator populations for the landscape. This carbon farming practice increases the soil's carbon storage capacity as well as the carbon storage in wood material. With the completion of this practice in 2020, the Comet-Planner Tool estimates 11 tons of carbon storage and 800 lbs of nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Cover Cropping

The no-till cover crop developed on 40 acres within the organic olive orchard was designed for drought conditions in the region, as well as for coarse textured soils. The collection of grassland species are both perennial and annual grasses, legumes and forbs. Establishing a permanent rooting system year-round mitigating soil erosions and increasing water infiltration. The 13 native plant species that also create bloom periods 10 months out the year. Providing pollinator forage to maintain healthy pollinator populations for the landscape. With the completion of this carbon farming practice in 2020, the Comet-Planner Tool estimates 11 tons of carbon storage and 2 tons of nitrogen from the atmosphere.


Composting is the natural process of organic matter decomposition by microorganisms in an environment that is closely monitored to reduce risks from pathogens. The nutrient-rich product, compost, has been adopted by growers as a soil amendment. Compost is receiving attention for its soil carbon storage potential as well as its potential role as a replacement for inorganic fertilizers. Compost is recognized by CA Department of Food and Agriculture for its capacity to enhance soil health and sequester carbon in soils, which may help CA meet carbon neutrality targets. Compost is a vital part of nutrient management on organic farms and ranches under USDA's National Organic Program. Properties of compost include the reduction of waste and benefits to producers, making agriculture more sustainable and promoting carbon storage in agricultural soils. Applying compost may provide several benefits to growers including increased resilience to climate-related impacts such as drought or heat waves. Compost increases SOM which may have benefits for yield, water holding capacity and retention, soil structure, and soil carbon. A long-term experiment at UC Davis shows compost can drive substantial increases in soil carbon storage. Compost adds both macro- and micronutrients to the soil and may reduce synthetic fertilizer inputs. Additional benefits include suppression of soilborne diseases by microorganisms. Compost can be applied to croplands annually or bi-annually. At the farm we are currently applying compost to 5 acres of the vegetable row crop beds. Regular soil testing is done to monitor the increases in soil organic matter.


There has been recent excitement about biochar as an agricultural amendment to improve soil health and sequester carbon. Biochar is a carbon-rich charcoal-like material that comes from high temperature thermal conversions of biomass feedstocks such as wood, nutshells, hulls, manure, or other organic material. In addition to promoting carbon storage in the soil, biochar may provide benefits to growers such as improved yields and enhanced water and nutrient use efficiency. The potential benefits from biochar are a function of the feedstock, production temperature and method, soil type, climate, and cropping system. Although biochar amendments may provide benefits, there are potential risks and growers may have difficulty making informed decisions about how and when to apply biochar to their fields. At the farm we are currently applying compost to 5 acres of the vegetable row crop beds. Regular soil testing is done to monitor the increases in soil organic matter.


What is carbon farming?

Carbon farming is the use of specific on-farm practices designed to take carbon out of the air and store it in soils and plant material. Carbon farming practices include application of soil amendments like compost, biochar, or pulverized rock (e.g. basalt), conservation tillage, agroforestry, whole orchard recycling, cover crops that maximize living roots, and many others. Many of the same practices that sequester carbon in the soil can improve soil health on agricultural lands. Some amendments such as compost and biochar may improve soil structure, which promotes long-term soil health and productivity of the land. Amendments that increase soil organic matter may improve the Zater holding capacity and infiltration in soils, which promotes resilience to climate-related impacts such as drought, heat waves, or heavy rains. Additionally, research shows that amendments can promote biological activity and supply vital nutrients, resulting in healthier plants that are less vulnerable to pests and disease.

What are the benefits to growers?

Soil amendment applications for carbon farming benefit growers by increasing agricultural productivity and supporting outcomes that enhance resilience to climate-related impacts. Benefits of amendments can potentially include: - Increased nutrient availability and retention due to increased soil organic matter - Increased crop and grass yields - Increased water holding capacity and water infiltration in soils - Enhanced microbial activity in soils - Healthier plants - Reduced need for chemical fertilizers - More resilient soils - More sustainable agricultural systems

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