Practiced by Farmers but Untested by Scientists: Uniting Both in Participatory Research and Education to Explain the Effects of “Soil Balancing” on Farms, Soils, Crops, Weeds and Insects

Soil fertility has indisputably large consequences for organic growers. Soil and knowledge to manage it are the most fundamental tools available to farmers. Not surprisingly, growers seek input on soil management and are eager to identify and implement successful practices. This has even peaked global interest. Did you know that the United Nations recently announced 2015 as the International Year of Soils?

One approach to soil fertility, “soil balancing,” is a holistic but costly approach described by farmer-practitioners as capable of enhancing crop yield, soil and crop quality, and weed control. Proponents of soil balancing believe that an ‘ideal soil’ is achieved only when the soil’s exchangeable bases, calcium, magnesium and potassium, are in specific proportions to each other. However, these benefits have not been demonstrated experimentally nor have the possible drawbacks of soil balancing been examined and discussed widely.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, this project integrates farmer and scientist expertise in organic soil management, especially when the Basic Cation Saturation Ratio theory (soil balancing) is involved. The goal of this project for scientific and farmer stakeholders is to develop a shared understanding of the major soil-, crop-, weed-, and profit-oriented consequences (positive and negative) of soil management, especially soil balancing.

The project will be performed at three research stations and at least ten farms per year throughout Ohio. The project incorporates stakeholder designed treatments. Measurements will include chemical, physical, and biological parameters. Weed pressure, both agronomic and vegetable crop production, and economics will be assessed.

As the progress of this work continues, further updates will be posted at these locations.

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