Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 1, Issue 1 - July, 2008


Soil Quality Comparison of Organic and Conventional Farming Systems in Northwest

Sundermeier, A.P., Ohio State University Extension, Wood County


In 2001, a replicated farming system experiment was established in Northwest Ohio to gain a better understanding of what occurs with crop production and soil changes when farmers transition from one management system to another. The treatments chosen for this experiment represent a range of conditions experienced by farmers transitioning either to organic or other more diversified crop management systems. Overall, the experiment is addressing ways to maintain production and economic viability while building soil quality. Five replicate blocks were established of each of five farming systems: #1 No-till conventional corn, soybean, wheat rotation; #2 Integrated reduced input tilled corn, soybean, wheat rotation; #3 Organic corn, soybean, wheat rotation; #4 Organic forage and grain rotation; #5 Organic multi-crop rotation. Five years of multiple site soil sampling were analyzed for soil quality properties. Soil pH measurements in the 1-6 inch deep #1 No-till system was 5.36 which was significantly lower than the Organic #3 system at pH 6.15. Active carbon sampled in the 6-12 inch deep #1 No-till system was 1047 lb/acre which was significantly less than the Organic #3 system at 1224 lb/acre active carbon. Soil microbial biomass was not significantly different among all systems at the surface 1-6 inch depth, however #1 No-till at 6-12 inch depth was 114 lb/ac, significantly less than Organic #3 at 220 lb/acre. Soil data indicate that the organic systems are shifting to greater biological activity compared to no-till.
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