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Calcium Product 98G

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Soil Testing Helps Inform Application Decisions

Soil Testing

Why soil test?

Soil testing is an important part of our philosophy at Calcium Products – without knowing the nutrient status of your soil, how are you to make informed decisions about what to apply to it?

Turf managers are normally good about soil testing, but if you haven’t been consistent about it or have been thinking about starting a soil testing program, now is the time to do so. With environmental regulations being administered in certain areas of the U.S., soil testing will help you maximize your fertilizer investment and make educated decisions on the best type of fertilizers to supply exactly what you need.

What a soil test measures

There are a wide variety of soil tests available that can help you gain insight into your nutrient status, soil type/texture, infiltration rates, water holding capacity, etc.

A basic soil test is likely to provide you with the following measurements:

  • - Soil pH
  • - Cation exchange capacity (CEC)
  • - Phosphorous
  • - Potassium
  • - Calcium
  • - Magnesium
  • - Lime requirement

Additional analyses that may be of interest depending on your location and situation might include:

  • - Soil texture
  • - Total soluble salts
  • - Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR)
  • - Sulfur
  • - Micronutrients

Nitrogen testing is typically not included in all sampling regimens due to its instability, making interpretation of the value difficult.

How to get started

Checking in with your state extension specialist to see what they recommend with regard to appropriate testing methods and preferred laboratories in your area is the best way to ensure you are testing all the right things for your situation.

Finding a lab you are comfortable with and that is regionally appropriate for you is important to maintain consistency and to build a historical database on which to inform decisions. The lab you choose will also offer recommendations on what nutrient levels to supply to bring them back into sufficiency range. You may double check with your state extension specialist to see if the laboratory recommendations are aligned with what they normally recommend.

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Lab Difference in Quality Soil 2

For comparison I sent soil samples from the garden and field to International Ag Labs. International Ag Labs does a great job helping their clients develop better soils, not just increase NP&K levels.

There are a couple of test they run that most labs don't. The first is the Formazan Test. This test will tell you how well your soil will digest fertilizer, amendments, and residue. The other is ERGS (energy released per gram of soil). This measures the amount of energy in the soil available for plant growth.

International Ag Labs also computes a Soil Index. The Soil Index measures the overall quality of this soil. It is represented as a 0-100 score on the soil with the potential to show negative numbers if the soil is extremely hostile to growing plants. The Soil Index is simply the total of all points (positive or negative) from all the measurements and ratios on the soil test. The desired level is 50 and greater.

Click  Field Test and Garden Test to view the tests.

These tests confirm the test from Midwest Labs, low pH 6.5 in the garden, 4.9 in the field. The test also confirms low calcium availability in the field; half of what is available in the garden. Also phosphorus is very low in the field. By having the Formazan test, and the ERGS test done, this gives us a better idea of how to make adjustments to the field.

Recommendations from Midwest Labs, tells us that we need 3.5 tons of ag lime (at a 90% ecce) to make the pH change (remember First Things First, fix your pH). However since most aglime is a 50% ecce, and 25% drifts away you will need close to 8 tons of aglime to change the pH.

The Formazan and the ERGS shows that the digestive capacity of the soil will not handle 3.5 tons of aglime. Applying that much lime to the field will not increase yield for years! It may show a pH and calcium increase in the lab, but plant available calcium will still be low.

Applying lime at a level the soil can handle is the best way to increase yields. You would not add 250 lbs of Nitrogen at one shot to sandy soil with a CEC of 4; it would not be able to store all than N. It would be wasted, this is the same concept with liming.

SuperCal 98G makes it easy and cost effective to lime for increased yields and profits. Applying 3-8 tons of aglime may make a pH change but ROI will be measured in decades. Make your inputs and fields work harder, get better returns, faster on your money, add SuperCal 98G to your fertility program.

The Ag Labs test for the field also recommends gypsum. You may ask why? We addressed this situation in our blog, Improving Water Infiltration. Low salt content reduces structure, creating small pore space, and less permeability. The other reason to add gypsum is, it adds soluble calcium for plants, something this field is lacking. SuperCal SO4, pelletized gypsum makes it easy to spread high quality gypsum.

On a final note, don't be satisfied with ""adequate"" or ""good enough"". In today's agriculture maximizing every acre of land is essential. 

 

 

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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My first farm show

Hi, my name is Courtney and I'm a city girl that's infiltrating the world of agriculture. Last week I worked the Calcium Products booth at the Iowa Power Farming Show and had a few observations to share.

But first, lest you think I'm kidding about the 'city girl' label, you should know that I've never NOT lived in an urban or suburban area. Even though I went to college here in Iowa and graduated with a few majors they were all in the journalism and design fields. The things I currently grow, or have grown, all fit in a backyard garden plot or a lovely counter or porch pot. Much to the consternation of my farm-raised husband, I call everything from a riding mower to a combine a "tractor." I was hired by Calcium Products to help with marketing and to promote our homeowner line of products. But because we're a small company and we all fill in where needed I've been learning more about ag.

So, without delay, here's a few things I learned at my first farm show:

1.  While most crops flourish the 6.5-6.8 pH range, as home lawns do, alfalfa tends to like a tad higher alkalinity.

2.  Farmers are loyal to the brands they love. I didn't even know there were so many options for logo-branded merchandise! I don't think I saw a single person sans logo or name of an ag-related company. I even saw one strapping lad in John Deere hat, shirt and belt buckle — I get it, you bleed green & gold!

3.  Even if your soil is naturally neutral or alkaline, the regular application of P&K will acidify it. Often a regular low-dose application of our SuperCal 98G lime will help keep things balanced.

4.  Men really are just little boys with toys, they're just bigger. Walking through the large equipment room of the show made me feel about ant-sized. Holy canoli, those are giant tractors! (teasing, teasing!)

5.  Many fields are sulfur-deficient. With cleaner air, our soil isn't pulling sulfur from the environment like it used to so we need to add it (via our SuperCal SO4 is a good way!).

6.  While everyone is loving this extremely warm/dry winter, we're all worrying about the drought. Did you know regular application of gypsum helps your soil be most efficient with the water it has?

7.  Farmers can't get enough pocket-sized notebooks. 

8.  The ag community is extremely welcoming and friendly. So many folks attend shows just to chat and make new friends.

9.  The number one most shocking thing I learned - so many farmers aren't soil testing. They have no idea what nutrients their soil (and therefore their crops) are lacking. They have no idea what their pH range is. This truly blew my mind. I heard so many reasons/excuses/theories I was aghast. One person was applying amendments based on their neighbor's soil tests (from now on I'm going to borrow my neighbor's grocery shopping list. I'm sure it'll be the same thing I need, right?). One guy said he applies ag lime every year even though he hasn't tested in years and had no idea what his pH is. I asked why waste the money since he might not even need it and he said he likes the tax deduction. (Weird, I'd prefer to save money and improve yield!) Several people said they only apply what they apply every year; no changes ever. (If you ate the exact same meal every day, every year, would you get all the nutrients your body needed?) And the story I heard repeatedly that still amazes me - farmers applying based on a soil test from YEARS ago. (If my husband and I applied that same practice to our rental property business, we could just buy 20 faucets this year because that's what we needed in 2006?)

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