Haughley Experiment


The Haughley Experiment was the first comparison of organic farming and conventional farming,[1][2] started in 1939 by Lady Eve Balfour and Alice Debenham, on two adjoining farms in Haughley Green, Suffolk, England.[3] It was based on an idea that farmers were over-reliant on fertilizers, that livestock, crops and the soil should be treated as a whole system,[4] and that "natural" farming produced food which was in some way more wholesome than food produced with more intensive methods.[5] Lady Balfour believed that mankind's future and human health were dependent on how the soil was treated, and ran the experiment to generate scientific data that would support these beliefs.[5]

Deborah Stinner, an entomologist, has written that by modern standards the Haughley experiment was more of a "demonstration" than a true experiment because it lacked methodological rigour, and it is thus not possible to draw any firm conclusions from its outputs.[6]

Findings reported by the Haughley experiment included:

  1. Levels of available minerals in the soil fluctuate according to the season, maximum levels coinciding with the time of maximum plant demand and these fluctuations were significantly greater in the organic plots.
  2. Vegetative mineral levels remained as high or higher in the organic plots even without receiving the mineral inputs that the conventional plots had.
  3. Organic fed animals required from 12-15% less input of food, were healthier, and lived longer than their conventional counterparts.
  4. Increased yields.[3][7][8]

In the early 1980s just before it ceased operation, properties of the three sections were measured and showed differences in earthworm density, crop root depth, and soil properties including soil carbon, moisture and, surprisingly, temperature.[9]

See also


  1. ^ White, Kim Kennedy; Duram, Leslie A (2013). America Goes Green: An Encyclopedia of Eco-friendly Culture in the United States. California: ABC-CLIO. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-59884-657-7.
  2. ^ "LADY EVE BALFOUR". IFOAM. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b Balfour, Lady Eve. "Towards a Sustainable Agriculture—The Living Soil". Canberra Organic Growers Society Soil And Health Library. IFOAM. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  4. ^ "The Haughley Experiment". Nature. 179 (4558): 514. 1957. Bibcode:1957Natur.179T.514.. doi:10.1038/179514d0.
  5. ^ a b Gordon, Ian (2004). Reproductive Technologies in Farm Animals. CABI. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-85199-049-1.
  6. ^ Stinner, Deborah (1 January 2007). Lockeretz, William (ed.). Chapter 4: Science of Organic Farming. Organic Farming: An International History. CABI. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-1-84593-289-3.
  7. ^ Widdowson, R.W. (1987). "Towards Holistic Agriculture: A Scientific Approach". Pergamon: London.
  8. ^ Blakemore RJ (2018). "Critical Decline of Earthworms from Organic Origins under Intensive, Humic SOM-Depleting Agriculture". Soil Systems. 2 (2:33: tab. 16): 33. doi:10.3390/soilsystems2020033.
  9. ^ Blakemore RJ (2000). "Ecology of Earthworms under the 'Haughley Experiment' of Organic and Conventional Management Regimes". Biological Agriculture & Horticulture. 18 (2): 141–159. doi:10.1080/01448765.2000.9754876. S2CID 85386290.

External links

  • Towards a Sustainable Agriculture - The Living Soil – text of address by Eve Balfour to the 1977 IFOAM conference in Switzerland.