What is cover cropping and how is it reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
More than 70 farmers and agencies attended a round table to discuss farming methods that aim to provide a more sustainable future for crops grown in the Salinas Valley. According to the United States Environmental protection Agency, in 2020, agriculture accounted for 11.2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Stephaine Kortman is a research scientist at CSU Monterey Bay; she studies soil greenhouse gas emissions, and she says that Carbon Dioxide is not the only gas emitted from farmland. "When we think about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, a lot of times the first gas we think of is carbon dioxide," Kortman said. Kortman said Nitrous Oxide is released from the soil at a lower rate than CO2 but is 300 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere. "A majority of the nitrous oxide emissions that humans are responsible for comes from fertilizer use, namely in the form of overuse, " Kortman said. A new California state regulation would soon limit fertilizer use on farmland, meaning farmers would have to turn to more sustainable farming methods. One of those methods is called cover cropping. Cover cropping is a farming method in which farmers will grow plants on parts of their field during the off-season the help protect their soil and the environment. In Monterey County, about five percent of farms use cover crops, but Braga Fresh Family Farms in Soledad said they cover crop about 30 percent of their fields. "We're taking both the CO2 and atmospheric nitrogen and picking up residual nitrogen, all of that activity cycling through so that when we get to the next crop here, we can limit our inputs to only what's necessary," Morgan said.