Amador Rangeland Soil Health Research and Education Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2019: $49,139.00
Projected End Date: 06/01/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G104-20-W7502
Grant Recipients: Amador Resource Conservation District; University of California Regents, UC Cooperative Extension
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Amanda Watson
Amador Resource Conservation District

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine, poultry
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: composting, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    The Amador Rangeland Soil Health Research and Education Project’s goal is to increase the implementation of best management practices that will improve soil health, and address a number of key issues facing livestock producers.

    Livestock producers in the area are challenged with multiple landscape scale issues. Rangelands are typically on shallow soils that are nutrient poor and low in organic matter. Climate variabilities including winter drought and infrequent precipitation decrease winter forage availability and the length of the growing season. As a result, invasive weeds thrive and outcompete desirable vegetation. These compounding issues result in less forage for livestock and make it economically difficult for producers.

    Studies have shown a direct benefit from the one-time application of compost to rangelands, including increases in water holding capacity, forage productivity, and carbon sequestration (Silver et al 2010, Ryals and Silver 2013). Based on these preliminary studies, the research component of the project will further test the one-time addition of compost to annual rangelands in an area that currently lacks localized data. By adding compost to the soil, we expect to increase soil fertility and water holding capacity which will ultimately increase the ability of desirable vegetation to be more resilient to climate variability and better able to compete against noxious weeds. In addition, the added fertility will make desirable forage more nutritious and more abundant for livestock, ultimately resulting in a financial benefit to the producer.

    The essences of a successful outreach effort precipitates from the ability to provide real-word, ground-truthed information to producers. The research component will provide localized data and demonstrations of outcomes. This data and on-the-ground demonstrations will be used in on ranch tours to educate livestock producers, agricultural professionals, policy makers, elected officials and other land managers regarding the benefits of particular soil health best management practices.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Provide localized data on the effectiveness of a one-time application of compost on annual rangeland using the following parameters:
      • Species composition
      • Forage production
      • Forage quality
      • Soil aggregate stability
      • Organic matter
      • Infiltration rates
      • Organic carbon
    2. Determine if the application of compost on rangelands can increase the resiliency of desirable forage species to outcompete the noxious weed medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae)
    3. Determine if the application of compost on rangelands can extend the growing season of desirable forage species
    4. Determine if reseeding with desirable forbs and/or the addition of compost will increase forage quality and quantity.

    Objectives 1-4 will be achieved by conducting research on five livestock ranches in Amador County. Compost and seeding application with take place in 2019 on five (5), five (5)-acre plots. Data collection and analysis will be conducted over three years, 2020, 2021, 2022.

    1. Increase understanding and the ability of local agricultural professionals and producers to assist producers in the implementation of ‘carbon farm planning’ and soil health best management practices by providing farm tours and workshops detailing the results of the conducted research. This will be achieved through the hosting one (1) project kick-off meeting, Five (5) ranch tours on the research sites throughout the project, and a booth at the Amador County Fair for two (2) years. At least five (5) outreach materials will be developed including: two (2) power point presentations, one (1) soil health fact sheet, one (1) cost benefit analysis fact sheet and (2) press releases to be distributed locally and statewide.
    2. Develop cost/benefit analyses for compost application on rangeland incorporating known local barriers, market information, and local data on increased soil health benefits to be provide to producers.
    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.