Developing organic management to restore soil quality for food production in degraded urban soils

Graduate Student Final Report – Ceres Trust Research Grant

Graduate Student: Josh Beniston

Major Professor: Rattan Lal, the Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources

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The formerly industrial cities of the North Central region have become a rapidly expanding frontier for urban agriculture (UA) in the US. As populations in these cities have declined, a legacy of vacant land and properties has been left behind. The city of Cleveland currently has more than 1,500 hectares (ha) of vacant land in the city, while Youngstown, Ohio contains more than 20,000 vacant city parcels. UA has emerged as an important means of utilizing vacant land and is capable of producing numerous societal benefits, including: improved nutrition, increased food security, and income generating opportunities. Urban soils, however, are highly variable and subject to high levels of anthropogenic degradation. An understanding of local soil properties is a basic starting place for sustainable agriculture, yet this information is simply not available in most urban areas. Though constraints to crop production can be common in urban soils, cities also contain enormous quantities of organic wastes, many of which have the potential to be transformed into amendments, such as compost or biochar. Data indicate that there is great potential to increase the production of amendments from these materials. These waste materials represent a tremendous potential resource for managers of urban soils.

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