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Soil pH – The Foundation for Nutrient Availability

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Every nutrient's availability is affected by soil pH.

Soil pH is the foundation and main governing parameter of soil fertility. Every nutrient’s availability to plants is affected by soil pH – some more so than others – which is why correcting and maintaining soil pH at adequate levels is so important.

Phosphorous (P) availability is the most affected nutrient by pH because the chemistry of P is such that it loves to react with other minerals in the soil at varying pH levels. At high pH, P is very attracted to calcium, while at low pH, P is very attracted to aluminum and iron. When P reacts with calcium, aluminum, or iron, it forms insoluble compounds that plants cannot easily access.

Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) are also affected by pH, but not in the same way as P. At low pH, aluminum and iron increase in availability and “out-compete” nutrients like N and K in the soil, leaving N and K susceptible to leaching from the soil profile.

Maintaining proper pH protects fertilizer investments.

With the substantial investment made on N, P, and K fertility programs, it is easy to see why maintaining appropriate pH is paramount to protecting fertilizer investments. Further, crops need sufficient access to these nutrients in order to obtain maximum yield and further return the investment growers make on these important nutrients.

Our philosophy is that soil pH should be corrected and then maintained with yearly or every-other-year, lower rate applications to avoid the pH rollercoaster that can occur with 4- or 5-year aglime application regimens. Our product, 98G, is a pelletized lime that corrects and maintains soil pH. It’s easy to apply and works well in variable rate application programs.

By measuring and managing soil pH, you are ensuring that growers are set up for a high-yielding crop and fertilizer investments are being put to work.

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Turf Products

Gorgeous turf begins with healthy, fertile soil, and Calcium Products knows soil. We’ve got over 25 years experience helping the agriculture community understand natural soil fertility, and since 2009, we’ve shared our soil science expertise with the turf industry as well. Remove salt left behind by effluent water, improve soil structure, create better waterways and break up compaction quickly with our SO4, containing the purest gypsum available on the market. Check out SO4, as well as our other great products below and see what Calcium Products can do for you.

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Blending SO4 with fertilizers

We got a question today on Twitter about blending calcium sulfate with other fertilizers so we're sharing the answer with everyone....

Our SuperCal SO4 gypsum (calcium sulfate) is compatible with any standard fertilizer. You should blend it to meet our application rate on the bag. Target your application at roughly 10-20 lbs of our product per 1000 square feet. 

Our calcium sulfate is analyzed at (0-0-0-21Ca, 17S), so for each 100 lbs of product, there is 21 lbs calcium and 17 lbs sulfate. That means in 10 lbs of product, there would be 2.1 lbs calcium and 1.7 lbs sulfate applied over the 1000 square feet.

Example, if you have a fertilizer that is 10-10-10 and you are targeting 1 lb of N per 1000 square feet, you need 10 lbs of that fertilizer to accomplish that. If you want to blend in our product to supply Ca and S for that same area, you should blend 10-20 lbs of our product in with the 10 lbs of standard fertilizer. If you want to make it simple and blend a whole 50 lb bag with our product, you can assume, at that targeted rate, you'll cover 5000 square feet with a 50 lb bag of 10-10-10, so you'll want to add 50-100 lbs of our product with that fertilizer.

 

More questions? Email me!

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Sulfur, Part 2: Application Rates & Timing

 By: Glen Howell

In Midwestern agriculture, there are primarily 4 fertilizers that are actively used for meeting sulfur nutritional needs. They are listed from highest to lowest sulfur concentration.  Also listed is their overall analysis & type of product composition:

Elemental Sulfur-90%S; (0-0-0-90S); dry product; sulfur is not in plant available form
Ammonium Thiosulfate (ATS)-26% S; (12-0-0-26S); liquid product
Ammonium Sulfate (AMS)-24% S; (21-0-0-24S); dry product
Potassium Magnesium Sulfate (langbeinite)-21% S; (0-0-21-21S-11Mg); dry product
Calcium Sulfate (SuperCal SO4; CaSO4; gypsum)-17%S; (0-0-0-17S-21Ca); dry product
Potassium Sulfate (SOP)-17% S; (0-0-50-17S); dry product

Crop need for sulfur

Crops need varying amounts of sulfur to complete their life cycle.  Much of what is needed for growth is recycled to the soil with plant residues, but there is a net loss with the crop removed. Organic matter (O.M.) in soil is a great sulfur source—each 1% contains 140# of sulfur—but it may not always be available when the crop needs it. 

Crop         Unit of Measure        # Sulfur/Unit of Measure        Yield-# Sulfur Removed                                                                 (Crop removal)

Corn (grain)        Bushel                   0.08#                               200 Bushels-16# S

Corn (silage)      Ton                        1.1#                                 30 Ton-33# S

Soybean (grain)  Bushel                   0.18#                                60 Bushels-10.8# S

Alfalfa/Forages  Ton                        5.4#**                   &nb

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Sulfur-Part 1: Solubility & Leaching

 By: Glen Howell

 

I have received several calls this week on sulfur.  They focused on solubility/leaching potential, application rates, application timing, and product comparisons.  We will discuss solubility & leaching potential in this part.

The solubility of any fertilizer or soil amendment is critical to a successful outcome.  In order for plants to utilize a nutrient, it must be in soil solution (the water surrounding the soil particles).  Until a nutrient dissolves & goes into this solution, it is unavailable for plant growth.  This is why applying fertilizer does not immediately result in improved plant growth, but takes time (usually days) for the material to dissolve, go into soil solution, & be taken up by plant roots, before 



Corn showing sulfur deficiency

resulting crop growth occurs.  Leaching can happen if a product is too soluble, & unfavorable weather conditions occur.  This is typically associated with heavy rains, especially during the growing season, but is possible at other times also.  We are most often concerned about leaching nitrogen, but sulfur can leach almost as easily.  

Soil particles have both positive (+) and negative (-) charges on their exchange sites.  Younger, unweathered soils, such as those found in the Midwest, have a prevalence of positive sites, referred to as cation exchange capacity (CEC), while older, highly weathered soils have more anion exchange capacity (AEC).  Opposite charges are attracted to each other, so Midwestern soils with good CEC values, can hold significant quantities of beneficial nutrients such as Calcium (Ca++), Magnesium (Mg++), Potassium (K+) & the ammonium form of Nitrogen (NH4+). Unfortunately, nitrogen does not stay in the ammonium form for long, & instead changes to the nitrate form (NO3-), which is why nitrate leaching is such a huge concern (http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/crop-chemicals/keep-nitrates-where-they-make-you-money-pointers-keeping-your-nitrogen-where-you-bene; http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2007/5-14/nitrogenloss.html). Sulfur must be in the sulfate form (SO4--) for plants to use it, so conditions favorable for nitrate leaching will also favor the loss of sulfates.

In the next part, we will look at application rates for sulfur fertilizers.

Other references:

http://www.spectrumanalytic.com/support/library/rf/Solubility_of_Micronutrients.htm 

http://www.greenhousemanagementonline.com/gm_1209_fertilizer_nutrient_solubility_mobility.aspx

 

Glen Howell is a contributing writer to Yield Starts Here, a blog for farmers, focusing on increasing yield and profitability by focusing on the soil.  His other interests include severe weather & old farm tractor

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Copper

You may be reading a lot in the news lately about copper. Thieves are stealing it off of houses, off of working power grids, and even churches.  While thieves looting copper gets the headlines, how much have you read about adding copper to your fertility program? The lack of copper in your soil could be costing you big money. Yield reductions of 70-100% have been recorded due to copper deficiency. In copper deficient Canadian soils, inclusion of copper could increase yields by 100 million dollars for Canada alone!
 
Copper deficiency has been found throughout the world in all climatic zones where crops are grown or animals kept on farms.  Its incidence varies according to soil, crop, livestock and management factors.  In particular it can occur in crops growing on soils with a sandy texture, on those rich in organic matter and on calcareous soils, but other soil factors can also cause a deficiency.
 
Wheat, barley and flax are not very efficient in copper uptake, and typically respond well to copper, though Alfalfa has been found to respond well too.
 
Symptoms of Copper Deficiency
Wheat and barley deficient in copper are more likely to lodge. Copper deficiency can delay flowering by up-to two weeks and result in pollen sterility. Pig tailing and leaf yellowing in young tillers is a common sign of copper deficiency in wheat, barley and oats. 
 
Reasons for Deficiency
Copper is pretty immobile in the soil. Of all the copper on a soil test, an average of 50% is insoluble and unavailable, 30% is bound to organic sites, 15% is in an oxide form, and only 5% is available for plant uptake. 
 
Soils are considered deficient in copper when they contain less than 2 ppm. Howvever, even when soils have adequate copper (30-50 ppm) other factors such as high pH, and  organic matter can reduce copper availability.  Soil pH above 6.4 can limit copper uptake. Copper concentration in soil solution decreases sharply as pH increase. Copper is 10 -100 times more available at a 6 pH than at 7. 
 
Copper is more strongly bound to soil organic matter that any other micronutrient. Copper deficiency is primarily found on high organic matter soils. Applications of copper not only increase crop production but also reduces the decomposition of organic matter, increasing the sustainability and health of the soil.
 
In addition to soil factors, other fertilizer can interact with copper. High rates of nitrogen can accentuate copper deficiency. Soils high in iron, manganese, molybdenum or zinc can also limit plant uptake of copper. Copper is most strongly adsorbed to iron and aluminum, another reason to avoid by-product liming materials.  Copper toxicity is rare and generally only occurs with long-term use of copper pesticides in orchards or from applications of by-products and sludges high in copper.
 
Adding Copper into your fertilizer program
Soil incorporation of copper is the best long term solution to solving copper deficiency. Copper sulfates, oxysulfates and our forth coming MicroHume product are great sources of dry granular copper to add to a dry program. While foliar applications should  be used on crops that are copper sensitive or need an immediate dose of copper. Wheat does not respond to foliar applications of copper after anthesis, and may actually reduce yield a
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Fall 2010 Sulfur Prices

 Our recent work with the Iowa Soybean Association on sulfur strip trials has me thinking about sulfur fertilizer. Past research trials by Iowa State on sulfur fertilizer for corn in northeast Iowa show positive results about 100% of the time on sands, 70% of the time on silt loam soils, 60% of the time on loam soils.


It seems that the word is getting out as the cost of sulfur fertilizers is on the rise. Recent prices on elemental sulfur are in the $0.32 - $0.45/# range or $0.35 to $0.50/# of actual S. But since it has to oxidize down to gypsum to be plant available it really is a big waste of money at any price, not just when it’s high. 

Ammonium Sulfate (AMS) is in the $0.20 to $0.30/# range or $0.83 to $1.25 /# of actual sulfur, not considering the nitrogen or the limestone needed to offset the acidity if causes.

SuperCal SO4 will cost you $0.09 to $0.11/# or $0.52 to $0.65/# of actual sulfur, not considering the calcium.

This fall and next spring make sure you have sulfur in your fertilizer program. Make sure it’s in a form that works, and make sure your not paying too much. Not all sulfur forms are the same some can cost you more upfront and yield in the end! 

 

 

Yield Starts Here is a blog for farmers, focusing on increasing yield and profitability by focusing on the soil. It is managed by Craig Dick, a Blogronomist and Sales and Marketing Manager at Calcium Products. Find other articles by Craig and guest writers at http://blog.calciumproducts.com/ 

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Wet soils require extra nutrients for high yields

How will all the excess moisture from this growing season affect your fertility plans?
 
Did you know that wet soils can cause deficnecies in nutrients other than Nitogens?
 
Here is some excerpts from an article written by Neil Kinsey 
...excess moisture has caused some fertilizer nutrients needed for good crop production to be leached out, washed downward out of the topsoil. This is especially true for nitrogen, sulfur and
boron, which is generally expected to be the case with highly active soil water systems. But often overlooked is the loss of calcium, which is another element that can be lost from higher rates of moisture.
 
But just applying some type of lime to correct the pH is not the best answer. In fact, some of the fields that have received high magnesium (dolomite) lime can still have an adequate pH and yet be limiting your crop yields.
 
When dolomite is applied in too large a quantity, it can cause an excess of magnesium and have a negative effect on yields. In corn, on medium to heavy soils, a high level of magnesium (above 15 percent) costs the farmer 10 bushels of corn per acre. Above 20 percent magnesium on the soil test reduces the yield by another 5 or more bushels per acre. In addition, it will require more nitrogen to produce each bushel of corn every year until the problem is corrected. In legumes, taking soybeans as an example, 13 to 14 percent magnesium levels can cause losses of 10 bushels per acre per year, even when all other nutrients are present in the proper amounts.
 
For more information on wet soils http://blog.calciumproducts.com/posts/how-floods-affect-soil.cfm
 
Yield Starts Here is a blog for farmers, focusing on increasing yield and profitability by focusing on the soil. It is managed by Craig Dick, a Blogronomist and Sales and Marketing Manager at Calcium Products. Find other articles by Craig and guest writers at http://blog.calciumproducts.com/ .
 
 
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Are You Worried About Phosphorus?

I recently read an article about the likelihood of declining phosphorus production.  Have you seen it?  If not, it's well worth the time, & I strongly recommend giving it a look at www.dailyyonder.com/forget-oil-worry-about-phosphorus/2010/09/08/2929.

Is this a concern for farmers?  It could be, although there are many areas with naturally high P levels or have a readily available supply through animal manures.  Economic factors may change the value that manure is given today & could well make it more valuable in the future, even with additional transportation costs.

What do you think?  Is this a big deal or not?

Glen Howell is a contributing writer of Yield Starts Here, a blog for farmers, focusing on increasing yield and profitability by focusing on the soil. Glen is an agronomist & sales representative at Calcium Products. Find additional articles by Glen and other writers at http://blog.calciumproducts.com/
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I got worms!

We are asked all the time about earth worms. Most of us don’t think of them until it is time to go fishing, but earth worms may be the most important livestock on your farm. Jerry Brunetti,  world renowned consultant calls them the "chicken-cow"of the soil. They have a gizzard to grind soil and plant particles, but they don’t eat the ground soil. They regurgitate the this mess into their tunnels where this mucousy concoction is fed on by bacteria and fungus. It is this microbiological smorgasbord that the worm actually eats!

 
How Many Worms Should You Have?
25 earthworms per square foot of soil equal 1 million earthworms per acre. Studies in England have shown that in healthy soil forty tons of castings per acre pass through earthworms bodies daily. A new USA study indicates 1½ million worms per acre which move 20 tons of earth each year. Studies by the National Soil Tilth Lab have shown that with good food sources and favorable conditions, a field might have over 100 worms per square yard.

Just like cattle and chickens, worms produce high quality fertilizer, but they take it a step further and happily till your fields.
 
This plowing by tunneling provides the soil with passageways through which air and water can circulate. This is important because soil microorganisms and plant roots need air and water just like we do. Without some kind of plowing, soil becomes compacted, air and water can't circulate in it, and plant roots can't penetrate it.
 
This tunneling activity helps breakup hardpan and other compacted soils. Studies have shown that 30% of a fields respiration during cold wet winter-spring months are due to earthworms. Another study in European orchards found that earthworms could increase the pore space in soil by 75-100%
 
More than simply plowing the worms are depositing fertilizer. This is something we should appreciate because earthworm droppings -- called castings  is some of the highest quality fertilizer available. The weight of casts produced from all this burrowing and feeding may be greater than 10 lb per worm per year, in itself an indicator of why it pays the gardener or farmer to keep worm populations high.
 
An analysis of worm castings when compared to the parent soil shows:
  • 7 times the available phosphorous
  • 6 times the available nitrogen
  • 11 times the available potassium
  • 3 time the available magnesium
  • 2 times the available carbon
  • 1.5 times the available calcium
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Maintained by Craig Dick, blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing, we have a wide array of blog articles from Craig and some expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming and growing tips, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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