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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #406122

Research Project: Sustainable and Resilient Cropping Systems for Midwestern Landscapes

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Does organic farming improve soil health indicators relative to conventional farming in the U.S. Midwest?

item Ruis, Sabrina
item Kovar, John
item Wacha, Kenneth - Ken
item CAMBARDELLA, CYNTHIA - Retired ARS Employee

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/8/2023
Publication Date: 10/30/2023
Citation: Ruis, S.J., Kovar, J.L., Wacha, K.M., Cambardella, C.A. 2023. Does organic farming improve soil health indicators relative to conventional farming in the U.S. Midwest? {abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Organic farming is a growing management strategy that can potentially improve soil health indicators relative to conventional farming due to use of organic amendments and intensified crop rotations. However, organic producers often use frequent or intensive tillage methods which could negate any improvements in soil health. Thus, our objective was to investigate the impact of three cropping systems 1) organic corn-soybean-oat/alfalfa-alfalfa, 2) organic forage, and 3) conventional corn-soybean on dynamic soil health indicators across 10 yr of management in the U.S. Midwest. We assessed soil biological (microbial biomass C and potentially mineralizable N and C), chemical (pH, EC, macronutrient concentrations, and particulate and total N and C concentrations), and physical (bulk density and mean weight diameter of water-stable aggregates) properties annually to a depth of 15 cm. Across years, the two organic systems improved microbial biomass C, potentially mineralizable C and N, and particulate organic C and N concentrations, relative to the conventional corn-soybean system. The two organic cropping systems improved microbial biomass C and particulate organic C in the first 1-2 yr while other soil properties were slower to change in response to organic management. Most soil biological properties responded to the cropping systems in this order: organic forage>organic>conventional. Data on the chemical and physical properties will be presented at the meetings.