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Where wine is concerned, Sonoma County is already famous for its cool and foggy climate, which lends itself to the production of fruit wines, specifically Pinot Noir. The county is also a major producer of wine grapes, which has attracted the attention of agricultural scientists who want to find out if growing crops in a warmer climate is even possible. After years of research, the first pilot program for agricultural climate adaptation has been completed by Sonoma County Winegrowers, which has shown that growing grapes in a warmer climate is indeed possible, and that winegrowers could see their yields increase.

One of the biggest challenges in today’s changing climate, is to maintain the production of staple foods at the same time reducing the amount of water required to grow them. Sonoma County Winegrowers is proud to be one of the first agricultural cooperatives in the nation to have successfully completed the very first USDA pilot program to work on this very issue. The results have been highly impressive with decrease in water use by about 20% in all the different varieties of grapes they tested out. This is the first time that it has been possible to decrease water use in grape production while maintaining the same yield of grapes. The problem of climate change is a massive and complex one, and will not be solved in one fell swoop. But, as

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The results and key findings are the subject of a new series of videos that will be made available to the public.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (April 22, 2021) – Twenty Sonoma County grape growers, representing nearly 1,900 acres of vineyards, have just completed the nation’s first agricultural climate adaptation pilot program with stunning results, giving us a reason to celebrate this Earth Day.

The California Land Stewardship Institute’s (CLSI) climate adaptation certification program creates climate-sensitive crop scenarios that are customized for each test vineyard. Based on the 20 sites in Sonoma County that participated in the pilot program, up to 2,184 tons of CO2 equivalent can be removed from the atmosphere each year.  This equates to more than 278 million smartphone charges per year, the electricity consumption of 370 US households or more than 5.4 million miles driven per year in a passenger car. Agriculture is estimated to account for only 8% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, but has the potential to be a leader in carbon sequestration nationally and to provide critical environmental benefits.

We are proud of our environmental leadership and honored to be the first agricultural participant in the Climate Adaptation Certification Pilot Program.  We know a lot more about carbon sequestration now than we did a year ago, and the results are really impressive, says Carissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers.  She added: Based on this success, we are working with CLSI to expand the pilot project to other vineyards in the district. For consumers looking for one more reason to support Sonoma County wines, we will soon be launching an educational video series on Sonoma County Climate Farmer, highlighting the positive impact of our local winemakers and providing quick tips on what wine lovers can do at home to join us in protecting the climate.

CLS has developed a climate adaptation certification program to reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, with an emphasis on carbon sequestration to improve soil and farm health.  The program meets both the climate goals of the State of California and the soil health goals of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We are very pleased with the results of the first year.  This proves the value and necessity of a viable agriculture industry to protect the environment, said Laurel Marcus, executive director of the California Land Management Institute.

CLS researchers used a state-of-the-art COMET agricultural model and provided farmers with specific information on soil types, site characteristics, and details of agricultural practices that affect greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration, including cover crops, tillage, irrigation, and nitrogen use. The pilot program also investigated natural oak woodlands, watersheds, and wetlands on the farm and identified where additional native plantings could sequester carbon.  Each of the 20 participating wineries was given its own land management program, specifically designed for on-site carbon sequestration.  CLS researchers then worked with farmers to answer questions, make recommendations and conduct field trials.

Participating in the climate adaptation program has been an eye-opener for me and has given me a better understanding of the farming solutions available that can make a difference, said Duff Bevill, manager of Bevill’s Vineyard.  He added: It is very interesting to learn how we can better reduce our exposure and how we can monitor and determine which changes in our practices optimize carbon sequestration. I look forward to expanding these techniques to other plots beyond my experimental vineyard.  As farmers, we have the opportunity to become true climate champions by offering practical and tangible solutions.

Sonoma County’s Climate Farmers project, which recognizes the important role of local climate solutions in addressing global climate challenges, will launch in a few weeks.  The first video was shot at Sunnyview Vineyard in Dutton Ranch, in the heart of the Russian River Valley.  This site is not only unique in its climate adaptation practices, but is also home to the Sonoma County Vineyarders office and has received a CDFA grant to be a demonstration site for educating farmers on sustainability, soil health, and climate smart agriculture. Each month, a new video will be published introducing a pilot partner in the field of certification for climate adaptation. The video can be viewed on the Sonoma County Vineyarders YouTube channel.

About Sonoma County Grape Growers:

The Sonoma County Winegrowers Commission, also known as the Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization to promote and preserve Sonoma County as one of the best wine regions in the world. SCW is overseen by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which supports the producing regions. With over 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and appreciation of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County grapes and wines through aggressive marketing and education programs for wine consumers around the world.

In January 2014, SCW committed to becoming the first 100% sustainable wine region in the country by 2019. As of September 2019, 99% of Sonoma County’s vineyard acreage is certified by a third-party auditor, making Sonoma County the most sustainable wine region in the world.  In addition, SCW became the exclusive pilot partner for California Land Stewardship’s 2020 climate adaptation certification. This program is the first of its kind for agriculture.  SCW’s sustainability efforts have been recognized with California’s highest environmental award, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).  For more information, see www.sonomawinegrape.org.

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