Assessing the Climate Mitigation Potential of Maine Agriculture

Farm fieldInstitution: University of Maine
Sponsor: Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

A Maine soil health initiative to enhance agricultural sustainability and mitigate climate change

Farming practices that promote “soil health” can make farms more productive, profitable, and resilient to climate change impacts. Additionally, some soil health building practices—for example, cover cropping, reducing tillage, and biochar application—can contribute to greenhouse gas mitigation. There is growing interest in state and regional policies to incentivize soil health building practices, but to inform these policy efforts, a baseline assessment is needed.

This project seeks to provide such an assessment by partnering with stakeholders to: determine the extent to which Maine farmers are currently utilizing soil health building practices; study the economics of these practices and identify barriers to wider adoption; estimate how much greenhouse gas could be mitigated and farm productivity improved by these practices; and, identify additional ecosystem services that could also be enhanced through improved soil health. Project results will provide farmers and policymakers with a systematic way to evaluate and prioritize soil health building practices based on their economic, agricultural, and environmental performance.

Key community partners in this work include the American Farmland Trust, Maine Farmland Trust, and Maine Climate Table, all of whom are actively engaged in promoting practices that build soil health and contribute to climate change mitigation. This project leverages existing networks and the expertise of our interdisciplinary research team to identify solutions to improve soil health, support ecosystem services, and enhance climate adaptation and mitigation in Maine’s agricultural sector.

Team Leader:

  • Adam Daigneault, Assistant Professor, School of Forest Resources & Mitchell Center, UMaine

Team Members:

  • Ivan Fernandez, Distinguished Professor, Climate Change Institute & School of Forest Resources, UMaine
  • Cindy Isenhour, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology & Mitchell Center, UMaine
  • Sonja Birthisel, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, School of Forest Resources, UMaine