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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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Bob Streit to Speak in Fort Dodge

Bob Streit will be speaking on crop challenges for 2011 on Jan 24th and Jan 31st at the Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge Iowa. Discussions will include soil fertility considerations, corp management ideas, soil management, diseases, fungicides, and seed traits.

If you have not heard Bob speak, I highly recommend you you make the trip. 

Bob Streit born and raised on a farm in Mitchell County Iowa, graduated from ISU with a degree in Plant Pathology and Pest Management. He worked four years with ServiTech Inc. Bob then organized the agronomy services with a large co-op in central Iowa. He  then worked 19 years with DeKalb and Cargill/Mycogen Seed Companies as a tech service agronomist. After multiple mergers he began working  for  farming clients as a consulting agronomist in Iowa. Until 2000 Bob also helped work and manage the home farm. In recent years he has been traveling to South America to study soybean rust and work with their pathologists on control methods. This has led him to work with the U.S. Rust Task Force and other projects with the USDA.

To register call 800-362-2793 ext. 1277, there is no charge for this event.

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Does Cation Balancing Have a Place?

Balancing Soil Nutrient Levels in Agriculture

Soil tests provide some great information to producers and consultants.  They usually include such things as pH, buffer pH, and CEC along with nutrient levels like Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).  Some agronomists and producers look at the pH and then ignore everything else except for the recommendations based on yield.  This might not be the best strategy for long term soil health.

There are some people who advocate looking at the relative proportions of the cations (Hydrogen, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium) in the soil and trying to achieve a balanced level of fertility.  This would be equivalent to achieving a balanced livestock ration or human diet. 

A Virginia website which talks more about cation balancing can be found here:  www.vabf.org/soilre1.php. I think the author makes two very important points in the conclusion:

1) A foliar or tissue test will show what the plant is actually using.  This may be different than what a soil test indicates.

2) There is no substitute for the knowledge that a farmer has about the land he is managing. 

 

 

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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Suggested light reading for the weekend!

The increase in the demand for fertilizers world-wide has drastically increased the cost of fertilizers. In addition to the cost, availability may be difficult in the coming years. Whether due to cost or availability many growers are looking for alternatives and products to improve yields with less NPK fertilizers. We would like to suggest humates.

Humate Benefits

Improved Water Retention, and water holding capacity
Humates can hold up to 20 times their weight in water.
Humic substances can enhance the release of fixed K from montmorillonite soils.
Addition of humic acids can increase P uptake by 25%.
Humic substances will increase length, and number of lateral roots, seedling growth after germination, nutrient availability and nutrient uptake.
These substances also affect a wide range of enzymatic processes.

Humates, play a vital role in soil fertility and plant nutrition. Plants grown on soils which contain adequate humates are less subject to stress, are healthier, produce higher yields, and the nutritional quality of feeds are superior. Humic substances are important in soil fertility and plant nutrition because of the part they play in the life cycle on earth. The life-death cycle involves a recycling of the carbon from plants to animals through the soil and air and back into the living plant.

Humates have been “forgotten “ when it was discovered that soluble acidic based N P and K fertilizers could stimulate plant growth. Continued use of these acidic fertilizers has decreased humic substances in the soil. This decrease is the main cause of leaching and erosion. Giving higher priority to soil humus and humates is a must to improve soil condition and yield.

Humic substances are recognized by most soil scientists and agronomists as the most important component of a healthy fertile soil. In addition, by understanding how these carbon containing substances function, professionals will have a solid foundation on which to design truly “complete” fertilizer recommendations.

Read Dr. Robert E Pettit's paper ORGANIC MATTER, HUMUS, HUMATE, HUMIC ACID, FULVIC ACID AND HUMIN: THEIR IMPORTANCE IN SOIL FERTILITY AND PLANT HEALTH
http://www.humates.com/pdf/ORGANICMATTERPettit.pdf 

 

 

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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What does all this rain mean to your field?

rain-corn

Obviously, it’s been a cool, cloudy and wet spring. So much so that corn planting, as of last week, stands at only 88%, 11% behind the five-year average of 99%. Only 44% of the soybean crop has been planted, way behind the 99% we experienced last year at this time. The stark weather contrast between this year and last has not only limited farmers’ ability to get into their fields, but also may have consequences in regards to soil fertility.

During drought conditions, it is normal for a ‘bank’ of nitrogen to be stored in the soil as there isn’t sufficient moisture to move it in the soil, so it stays put. Soil samples taken by Iowa State last fall indicated that it may be possible to have upwards of 100 lbs N/A carryover to this season, which is roughly double what may normally carry over from year to year. However, with all of the moisture that has fallen this spring, a significant amount of that nitrogen may have already leached out of the soil.

My suspicion is that the same thing may be happening with sulfate as well. Observations that I’ve made as I drove past corn fields last week generally show a yellowish, chlorotic plant that is starved for nutrition, at the V3-V6 stages on average.

The Iowa Soybean association is recommending farmers do a late-spring, pre-sidedress soil nitrate analysis in early June when the plants are 6-12 inches tall. The benefit of this test is that it predicts the amount of nitrogen available before the corn plant begins taking up more nutrients as it matures. ISA is recommending that if the test shows less than 21ppm nitrate, there is a high probability that the cost of an additional nitrogen application would be covered by the increase in yield you will see from that application. It’s completely up to the individual, but it may also be worthwhile to consider a sulfate source to sidedress along with additional nitrogen.

There are other compounding factors when soil is waterlogged for prolonged periods. Not only does the saturated soil predispose corn and other plants to disease pressure, it depletes the soil of oxygen, which has many negative impacts on plants. One of which tends to be exacerbated when it happens early in the season is restriction of root growth and development. Fortunately, we are not dealing with temperature extremes along with the saturated soil which would make the situation even worse. Things look to warm up this week; hopefully the soil will start to dry out a bit so we can all get back to our regularly scheduled growing season!

 

 

 

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