Soil fertility management has indisputably large effects on crops, farms, and the environment. “Soil Balancing” based on base cation saturation ratios is one of three major philosophies of soil fertility management. Proponents of the soil balancing philosophy describe it as a holistic approach able to enhance crop yield, soil and crop quality, and weed control. These benefits, however, have not been demonstrated experimentally nor have the possible drawbacks of soil balancing been examined and discussed widely. For example, there are questions about the cost of implementing and the return on investment from using a soil balancing-centered philosophy, perhaps especially within commercial vegetable production.
“Soil balancing” proponents hold that an ‘ideal soil’ is achieved only when the soil’s exchangeable bases are roughly 65% calcium, 10% magnesium, and 5% potassium. The ‘Base Cation Saturation Ratio’ (BCSR) approach does not directly address the supply of nitrogen, phosphorus or micronutrients. That is left to the “Deficiency Correction” and “Maintenance” philosophies that emerged during the proliferation of prescriptive, chemistry-centered plans that call for routine applications of concentrated, synthetic fertilizers.
A multidisciplinary team including the VPSL is working to understand the BCSR/Soil Balancing philosophy more completely. We work with farmers, consultants, and others in experimenting with BCSR approaches and documenting their impacts on farms, soils, crops, and weeds. What we learn we share with others. The VPSL is specifically interested in how using a BCSR/Soil Balancing approach can influence vegetable yield and quality, including sensory and nutritional.