Measuring Soil Health and Carbon Sequestration in an Emerging Chestnut Agroforestry System

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $18,700.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Regenerative Design Group
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Keith Zaltzberg
Regenerative Design Group


  • Fruits: berries (other), paw-paws, persimmon
  • Nuts: chestnuts


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping, biological inoculants, cover crops, fertigation, intercropping, no-till, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, hedges - woody, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will address the need for regional examples of perennial agriculture systems and management strategies that bring health back to degraded soils, and build farm diversity and resiliency. We will implement a range of regenerative agriculture practices at a chestnut agroforestry site, and measure changes in soil health and carbon sequestration using well-understood indicators and repeatable methods. Through on-farm events, a soil biology training, soil self-assessment training, presentations, and online media, farmers will learn about agroforestry establishment, regenerative management practices, and soil testing procedures and interpretation. Farmers will be able to see directly how these practices have improved soils, and what it means for carbon sequestration and farm resiliency. Additionally, farmers will be better informed about best practices and technical needs of agroforestry in the Northeast.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to demonstrate how perennial agriculture and regenerative management practices affect soil health and the soil’s ability to sequester carbon. Climate change leaves many farms - particularly those in floodplain areas - susceptible to severe weather events. By modeling practices that focus on perennial agriculture - and tracking changes to soil health and carbon drawdown - we hope to make the case to other farmers wishing to incorporate perennials and regenerative practices into their management regimes.

    Using data collected in 2018 as a baseline, we will measure and document soil health and carbon sequestration through 2019, and the grant cycle of 2020 and 2021. We will utilize two soil health protocols: 1. Cornell Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health, CASH, and 2. NOFA/Mass Soil Carbon Assessment. Results will allow us to determine if there have been increases in soil organic matter, soil biology, and carbon sequestration.

    A successful project will mean that 375 regional farmers and agricultural service providers will see and learn about: 1. Incorporating perennial crops and regenerative management practices to contribute to the long term farm resilience, 2. Soil biology testing techniques, and 3. Connections between agroforestry practices and soil health.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.