Soil Cation Balancing


The concept of basic cation saturation ratio (BCSR) was developed in the early 1900’s as part of soil fertilizer recommendation philosophies. BCSR proposes there is an ideal basic cation saturation ratio at soil exchange sites (where soils gain or lose cations) to achieve optimal crop yields. The practice of adding amendments to achieve an ideal saturation ratio, a balanced soil, is called soil balancing. Many farmers, especially organic, are heavily invested in soil balancing practices for their anticipated effects on soils, crops, and weeds viewing soil balancing as a viable management approach but these effects have not been objectively demonstrated. Previous scientific research could not support the claims that the use of basic cation saturation ratios would improve crop productivity.

Cation Exchange SitesDetermining if soil balancing enhances soil health and leads to benefits of improved profit, weed control, crop yield and crop quality are unresolved questions of great theoretical, practical, environmental and economic importance. Moreover, unfamiliarity of most agricultural scientists and educators with the practice and benefits of soil balancing prevents them from assisting farmers as effectively as possible. Therefore, a systematic, comprehensive and farmer-centered evaluation and outreach project has been developed which intends to create a commonly-accepted knowledge base specific to soil balancing and its effects on farms, soils, weeds and crops. This integrated research-outreach effort will help fill critical gaps in understanding the systemic implications of soil management as approached via soil balancing.

Ca:Mg ratios


The main goals of this multi-disciplinary four-year research project are:

  1. Document the effects of soil balancing on a range of properties that are pivotal to the functioning and productivity of agroecosystems. Grower and scientist knowledge and perceptions, and soils, crops, and weeds exposed to contrasting soil management approaches will be comprehensively examined in the short- and long-term.
  2. Ensure that the soil balancing knowledge-base developed in concert with stakeholders is available to them, and others on a rapid, widespread, consistent, durable, and easily-applied basis.


Since 2015, we collected data relating to soil physical, chemical and biological properties, crop yields and quality, and weed populations at our three on-station field research trials. Data collection is on-going and will continue until the end of 2018 growing season.

soil balancing

Learn more about our collaboration here: Organic Farming Research Network's soil balancing project