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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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New research: synthetic nitrogen destroys soil carbon, undermines soil health

Calcium Products is a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, as such I get email updates, I must say I was kind of astounded to see this one (below).

We have known for years that SuperCal SO4 and SuperCal 98G can help reduce the amount of nitrogen it takes to grow a crop, I just didn't know that reducing applied N in addition to saving the farmer money would help his soils be more profitable long term, increase nutrient holding capacity and reduce erosion and runoff.

I know, we have all thought that we need nitrogen to grow a bumper crop, what if you could grow 200+ corn with almost no nitrogen? We know people that can! WIll every farmer be able to go to a no nitrogen program over night? Likely not, but soil improvement, maintenance and management should be to priority for anyone involved in eating. Yes I said eating, if you like food you need a farmer and he needs good quality soil to grow our food!

I will be doing future blogs on the importance on soil carbon. Here are some links to previous articles;

 
 
Update - I have pulled the original article while good information I think the two scientific journals were written from are much more valulable and less sensational.
 
Update II - I have disucused this topic with Dr. Ray Ward of Ward Laboratory on many occasions, here is his response to my question about this article.
Craig:  I have been following this feud for a while.  Funny they never mention yields or the amount of N they are removing from the land every year.  Just fertilizer N is bad.  I talk to farmers about building organic matter or sequestering carbon.  Organic matter has all of the plant nutrients in it.  To sequester carbon you have to sequester all of the plant nutrients.  If you are using the nutrient out of organic matter you are not going to build organic matter.  Illinois has been recommending too much N for corn and Mulvaney is out to prove they have been using too much N.  I remember when Dr. Fred Welsch from Illinois reported that they did not get any corn yield response to N and he could not figure out why.  They had no nitrate tests or anything to explain why.  He was puzzled.  So they continued to recommend too much N and now they have this argument going on.  Dr. Fred Below (Illinois) is recommending 0.85 lb of N per bushel.  This has dropped from 1.2 that Dr. Bob Hoeft (Illinois) was using.  Paul Jasa, at UN-L has increased carbon in his no-till  plots by 10 ton per acre (6 foot depth) in 24 years of no-till with adequate fertility.  No-till was compared to moldboard  plow.  We are trying to encourage farmers to diversify their crop rotations so the microbes diversify.  This will increase organic matter in the soil.  Of course this is in no-till.  Tillage will continue to add oxygen to the soil to increase organic matter “burn”.  No different than the wind coming up when you start a fire.  Oxygen is needed
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A Note of Thanks

Last year Alberto Ferracuti, a coffee grower from El Salvador contacted me. He was having trouble getting good yields. I explained that I had no experience with coffee or soil from his region. He said that the people with experience in coffee had not helped him and wanted me to look at his soil samples.

After faxing me his soil tests we made recommendations. Due to the high cost of freight Alberto was unfortunately not able to use or products. He did follow our recommendations and he has called me twice this year to inform me of the dramatic improvements. Here is the last email I received from him.

Craig, I decided to email you this note of thanks, since I cannot buy your product due to its prohibitive cost (Freight to El Salvador). I have no doubt it is great, as is your comments in your blog.
 
I have witnessed how calcium has played a very important role in a variety of ways, the most evident being much better utilization of nutrients existing in soils, not to mention those applied in fertilizers. This year, when the rains started in May, I saw my coffee trees respond heavily to the high organic matter content (7%). Populations of earthworms are up, probably microbes and bacteria too. The end result is that we are now at July and I have not applied one ounce of nitrogen to the trees, you should see how they look!!! like you had applied nitrogen twice. I have no doubt bacteria are at work nitrifying organic matter and to add nitrogen at this juncture would be giving excess nitrates to the soil. Maybe we could chat over the phone ? let me know.
 
Alberto

Thanks for the note and call Alberto, helping farmers grow better yields and better quality is what it is all about!

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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Nitrogen Availability

Did you ever wonder why you need 1 lb on Nitrogen per bushel of corn and your neighbor needs 0.5 lbs per bushel?

From Science Daily http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511122416.htm 

"Contrary to the prevailing view, cereal crops derive the majority of their nitrogen from the soil, not fertilizer. Soils differ considerably in microbial activities that determine nitrogen-supplying power, and these differences must be taken into account if nitrogen fertilizers are to be used efficiently. "

Having proper pH and high levels of available calcium are two of the basic steps to increasing the biological activity of your soil.

Have questions about increasing biological activity, give us a call we can help you increase nutrient availability!

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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The smell of money...

The smell of money, isn’t that what people say when they smell manure from hogs and cattle.

The main component of the smell is ammonia, a nitrogen source. While your neighbors may call it a nuisance, it’s really the smell of crop nutrients evaporating. This is called volatilization loss. With the cost of fertilizer high and the price for corn low, everyone is looking to reduce the cost of applied N.

Ammonia losses following land application of manure could reach up to 95% of the total manure nitrogen-ammonium (N-NH4) content. The amount of N-NH4 lost depends on the manure characteristics and the environmental conditions.

Research has demonstrated that SuperCal SO4 can effectively reduce ammonia losses through a binding effect. SuperCal SO4 combines with ammonia to create a complex salt that prevents ammonia loss, while increasing plant N uptake. Our customer’s claim they are saving over 50% of the ammonia normally lost to volatilization.

In addition to saving expensive nitrogen, SuperCal SO4 also adds sulfur to the manure making it a better fertilizer when applied to your fields. Our customers also report less foot problems in feedlot cattle and less disease in dairy dry stalls.

Do your bottom line a favor, repair relations with neighbors by adding SuperCal SO4 to your barns and lots. For rates and applications check out our past article Treating Manure with SuperCal SO4.

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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Fertilizer Cost Update

For many, the cost of fertilizer is the number one topic being discussed. It doesn't take a genius to know it is going to be more expensive in the future.

This article from Wells Fargo drives the point home.

A couple of key points:

In January, the USDA reported that the US exported 193 thousand tons of nitrogen fertilizer. To put this into context, from January of 2002 to December of 2007, the US exported 152 thousand tons. The US exported 27% more in one month than in the previous 6 years.

If the rest of the world wants N at today's price, it's not going to go down.

In the case of hedging future revenues against purchases of fertilizer, the producer only needs to sell as much as the fertilizer represents in their expected cost structure. If their total cost per acre is expected to be approximately $600/acre and fertilizer represents $150/acre of that cost, the producer should sell about 30 bushels per acre to hedge off the fertilizer forward purchase.

Prices of fertilizer will continue to increase. If you listen to Elwynn Taylor there is a 70% chance that the price of grain will be higher in the future due to drought. With the volatility of the markets and cost of inputs make sure you cover your are at least covering your cost.

The exciting times are just starting, what are you doing to offset increased fertilizer prices?

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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Soil Biology - Azotobacter

We talk a lot about soil quality and soil biology. When we hear soil biology, earthworms and rhizobium are the first things that come to mind. There are many other soil life forms that deserve our attention. I will present information on the most beneficially ones over the next few months. As fertilizer prices continue to raise, it will be important to not only feed the crop, but also feed the organisms that enable the plant to access those high priced inputs.

I present Azotobacter

Azotobacter is a bacterium that can fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil without the aid of a legume. It is a great source of nitrogen to meet the needs of crops, has the capability rejuvenate the soil, and provides nutrients for other microbiology to max out nitrogen fixation. Its main fuel is carbon (organic matter), but it also requires calcium, and micronutrients for nitrogen fixation.

Besides N fixation Azotobacter improves seed germination, produces plant growth promoting hormones, and fungicidal substances. Azotobacter is the heaviest breathing organism and requires a large amount of organic carbon for its growth. It thrives in alkaline soils and is less effective in soils with poor organic matter content, low pH and high salts.

Azotobacter produces Thiamin, Riboflavin, B12, B1, Biotin, Gibberellins, and Cytocinins. Azotobacter produces substances that are required for Rhizobium bacteria, and Mycorrhize growth. Rhizobium is primarily responsible for nitrogen fixation in legumes. Plants growing in the presence of Mycorrhize have improved nutrient and water uptake, disease resistance and superior growth.

Azotobacter also has a symbiotic relationship with Phosphobacteria. Phosphobacteria as it’s name implies transfers phosphate from insoluble soil particles directly to the plant in soluble from. Azotobacter and Phosphobacteria fix phosphate more efficiently together than alone. Phosphobacteria alone increased potato yields by 6%, while together with Azotobacter increased yields 33%.

Ensure that your not missing out on free nitrogen, keep your pH at 6.5 or higher, supply the necessary carbon and calcium that this extremely beneficial bacteria needs with SuperCal 98G pelletized lime.

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!   

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Don't be a More-on

Nationally recognized high yield soybean grower Ray Rawson once said “Don’t be a moron and think you get high yields by putting more-on.”

If 100 lbs of K is good 300 lbs is better, right?

I have had a number of farmers ask me at shows, “How much fertilizer do I need for this crop?”
Many are confused when I tell them, “I don’t know, do you have a soil analysis?”
Many reply with “No I haven’t.”
It really floors them when I tell them, “Without a proper analysis nobody can make an accurate recommendation.”

Not enough N, P & K is generally not your most limiting factors.* Making those nutrients and the 13 others available to your plants is. When was the last time a full soil analysis was taken on your farms?

With the price of N, P, and K going through the roof and continuing out of this world, does it really make sense to base your nutrient recommendations on 10-year-old information, how about 2-year-old information?

If your consultant makes a fertility recommendation without a proper soil analysis, fire that salesman, and find a proper consultant. With today’s input prices you cannot afford to work with someone that does not know how to read a soil analysis and make proper recommendations.

Did you know that adding sulfur makes your nitrogen work more efficiently? Having enough calcium in the right ratios helps to reduce nitrogen volatilization and leaching. Adding a high quality EDTA manganese when spraying glyphosate can reduce soybean “flash” and reduces stalk rots in corn. Low or high pH reduces availability of fertilizers, and decreases nodulation.

Don’t be a more-on, take proper soil samples, provide your crop with the proper amount of nutrients in the right amounts, and take more yield to the bin.

 


*If your thinking weather is your most limiting factor, you might be right. That is out of your control, but proper plant nutrition is not. Even in poor weather, properly managed crops will always out yield poorly managed crops.

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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Calcium, more than just pH

It is true that NPK is used in greater percentages than calcium, but calcium is used more by weight and volume than any other nutrient. Calcium is rarely considered as a nutrient at all, only as a soil buffer to adjust pH.

Calcium should be considered the most important nutrient, and more than simply just a tool to move the pH scale. It plays a major role in the physiology of the plant, strengthening its physical structure, increasing nutrient uptake and protecting from disease. The importance of calcium in the soil, includes; the reduction of soil compaction, increased water infiltration, and helping to provide a better environment for the proliferation of beneficial bacteria. Some research even suggests that calcium plays a role in weed populations. To associate calcium only as a buffer of pH is agronomicly ignorant.

Calcium Benefits
Calcium neutralizes soil acidity
Improves soil structure and quality
Prevents soil crusting
Reduces soil salinity
Reduces erosion and phosphorous loss
Improves water penetration
Promotes root development
Calcium stimulates growth of ""soil life"", including nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Every plant needs calcium to grow
Calcium helps create a healthy environment for your plants
Only nitrogen and potassium are required in larger amounts by plants
Once fixed, calcium is not mobile in the plant
It is an important constituent of cell walls and can only be supplied in the xylem sap
If the plant runs out of a supply of calcium, it cannot remobilize calcium from older tissues
If transpiration is reduced, the calcium supply to growing tissues will become inadequate
Calcium is found in many minerals in soil, but is relatively insoluble.
A common misconception is that if the pH is high, adequate calcium is present
High levels of other cations such as magnesium, iron, sodium, and potassium can increase pH
Plant available calcium determines the uptake of all other nutrients into the plant
It is the carrier of all other nutrients to the plant
As calcium content in the plant drops so can the protein, mineral and energy levels of the plant
Calcium is not considered a mobile nutrient, but can leach with excess nitrogen
Over fertilization of nitrogen and potassium will reduce calcium availability
High potassium levels reduces the uptake of calcium
You will usually find an increase in all mineral levels in a plant following the correction of low calcium
Calcium plays a critical metabolic role in carbohydrate removal.
Calcium neutralizes cell acids
Study after study shows calcium at the optimum level will decrease disease in most plants
Yield, quality, taste, shelf life and disease resistance are all functions of good calcium uptake

SuperCal SO4 and SuperCal 98G are great sources of calcium. Our pelletized processing makes it easy to add calcium to your dry fertilizer program. See your local dealer or give us a call to see how easy it can be to reduce input costs, and increase yields.

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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I might sail off the edge of the earth

The sun revolves around the earth

The world is flat

It takes 1.2 lbs of Nitrogen to make one bushel of corn

 

These are a just a few once held beliefs that come to mind. There are lots of them out there. Why do they persist and why does it take so long for people to let go of them. There is one main reasons; fear of loss.

Fear of loss can mean a number of things, fear of change, loss of yield, loss of a customer, loss of reputation.  There are still people who think the world is flat; they cannot accept change. If a crop consultant recommends a low N rate, and his client has poor yields, he will be blamed for the failure, even if N rate is not the reason. The fear of loss of that customer and being ridiculed keeps the status quos in place.

Western Union passed on the telephone, stating it is an unusable technology. They were so heavily invested in the telegraph system that they refused, or couldn’t see the benefits of the new technology. They had such domination on the communications industry that they could not believe that telephones could work.

What practices are you or your consults so heavily invested in that nothing else could work on your operations? Have you tried different N rates, applying sulfur, or cover crops? Yes, changing what your currently doing could cause some loss in the short term and may even take a little extra work. Don’t forget to consider what may be gained if your new practice works, lower fertilizer input costs, more income, more free time.

In 1899, then Patent Commissioner, Charles H. Duell reportedly announced, "everything that can be invented has been invented." We know that is not true and new and innovative inventions and ideas are developed every day

While liming is not new, the way we think about it is new. Would you expect good gains feeding cattle if you feed them 2 years of feed at once? Do you expect excellent return on investment by applying 5 years of phosphates at once? Applying SuperCal 98G pelletized lime reduce wild pH swings, is less expensive than ag lime, yields better, and makes all your other inputs work more efficiently.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading.

 

 

The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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