How can land grant universities lead on carbon removal?

5 min readJun 24, 2019

by Rory Jacobson and Daniel L. Sanchez

The Cooperative Extension System has supported U.S. agriculture through some of the worst trials of the twentieth century — and very, very few people have heard of it.

You can trace its history back to the Soil Erosions Service, a government agency established in the 1930s to respond to a growing awareness of the detrimental impact of soil erosion. (This problem culminated in a little something called the Dust Bowl.) Even before this, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 made land grant universities conduits for sending agricultural experts into the field to translate academic findings into applied management decisions.

An Extension Expert shows off the roots of a mung bean in a soil health demonstration field in North Carolina (1923). Photo: NC State University Libraries

Today, the Cooperative Extension System continues to provide the same vital service, but the nature of its role has evolved in response to the changing needs of land managers across the country. With U.S. farmers struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the need for an adaptive support system like the Cooperative Extension is clearer than ever, yet the role the Service should serve in mitigating climate change has not been well developed.

Recently, Carbon180 advisory board member and Cooperative Extension Specialist, Dr. Daniel Sanchez led the publication of an article in California Agriculture assessing the opportunity for University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) experts to lead on carbon dioxide removal (CDR). The outreach, education, and deployment work of UCCE and other UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts on CDR is unquestionably praiseworthy. If the work of UC ANR can rapidly scale and spread both within the state and across the country, Cooperative Extension could become a primary driver for CDR deployment. Fortunately, we are confident that UC ANR has what it takes to accomplish this.

Why California?

Though Cooperative Extension began in Arkansas and continues to operate across the country, there are several reasons UCCE and the broader UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are uniquely well positioned to lead CDR research and…


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