Soil management influences food production, economic performance of farm businesses, and a range of public benefits such as water quality, flood control and aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. The aim of this paper is to explore the role of participatory research in combining scientific and farmer knowledge of soils to meet these multiple objectives. We use five separate research studies involving communication, consultation and co-production, carried out in the English East Midlands between 2014 and 2018. We compare the participatory processes for knowledge exchange and their material outcomes and assess them retrospectively against specified criteria for successful application of participatory research. We conclude that, depending on context and scalar fit, multiple approaches to participatory research can be complementary, strengthen engagement and build trust within a farming community, resulting in a greater shared understanding of how to address the soil management objectives of farmers and wider society.