Close-up of bunches of ripe Red Wine Grapes

UC Davis Receives FFAR Grant to Help Improve Vineyard Soil Health

Davis, CA

  • Soil Health

Wine grapes are sensitive crops that are susceptible to subtle changes in temperature and precipitation, making them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Regenerative agriculture, which uses holistic farming and grazing practices to strengthen soil health and crop productivity, may help grape vines become more resilient to changing climate conditions. However, more research is needed to increase adoption of regenerative agriculture practices on vineyards. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $999,003 Seeding Solutions grant to the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) to assess the effects of regenerative practices on vineyard soil health. Jackson Family Wines provided matching funds for a $2.6 million total investment.

Regenerative agriculture can help sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide as soil organic matter, playing a key role in climate change mitigation. Regenerative agriculture proposes the “stacking” of well-known soil conservation practices, such as compost, no-till and cover crops, to take advantage of synergies and maximize benefits to soil health. This technique often includes reintegrating crop and livestock production. For wine grapes, that typically involves bringing sheep to vineyards.

However, the impact of soil health practices on vineyards remains difficult to predict due to various factors, including management strategies, climate and soil type, all of which can influence carbon sequestration potential.

Led by Dr. Cristina Lazcano at UC Davis, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from UC Davis, USDA Agricultural Research ServiceCalifornia Polytechnic State University, Oregon State University and Skidmore College is examining how well regenerative agriculture can build soil carbon and soil health in vineyards and its effects on crop yield, grape and wine quality.

“Woody perennial crops like wine grapes have large potential to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change,” said Lazcano, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. “Because of this, the wine grape industry is uniquely positioned to spearhead efforts in regenerative agricultural management. We are proud to contribute to the development of science-based best management practices to support the sustainability efforts of the wine grape industry.”

Lazcano and team are establishing reliable sampling methods to determine changes in soil carbon abundance within vineyards. The team is examining the relationship between historical soil management and soil carbon to estimate the carbon abatement potential of regenerative management in vineyards of the U.S. West Coast. They are also assessing the effects of regenerative practices in a series of 12 controlled field trials stretching from Oregon’s Willamette Valley to Santa Barbara, California.

This research aims to provide farmers with an in-depth understanding of how soil management practices drive soil carbon sequestration while connecting the dots between changes in soil carbon, soil health and grape quality.

This grant is a terrific example of how collaboration among farmers, researchers and industry partners can yield nimble, scalable solutions that can enhance resiliency to extreme weather. By providing evidence-based soil health management practices, this research will ensure producers are equipped with the tools, knowledge and strategies to grow sustainable, profitable crops. LaKisha Odom, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director
Sustaining Vibrant Agroecosystems


Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.