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Soybean Nodules Adversely Affected by Low Soil pH

Soybean Harvest

Soybean nodules supply plant available nitrogen

Nodules on soybean roots are formed by a specific genus of soil-borne bacteria, Rhizobium, which form a symbiotic relationship with the plant. The nodules fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and transform it into plant available nitrogen, while the plant supplies necessary nutrients and energy for the bacteria to multiply and thrive.

Typically, nitrogen fixation via nodules supplies most of the nitrogen that a soybean crop needs during a given year and additional nitrogen applications are not advised as that can have a detrimental effect on nodules. If there is nitrogen available from applied fertilizer, the relationship between the nodules and the plants suffer, ultimately hindering the ability of the nodules to fix nitrogen. It’s a costly move for both growers and the plant-bacteria interaction.

Nodules hindered by low soil pH

Nodule formation and performance is hindered by soil pH below 5.7. Many fields in the Midwest have areas of the field, or wide expanses with values at or below this level. The acidification from nitrogen sources applied during corn rotations continue to drive pH values lower.

When ammonium sulfate (AMS) is used to supply sulfur for soybean crops, a two-headed monster is working against achieving maximum yield. First, nitrogen is being applied, which can hinder nodule formation and performance. Second, AMS is the most acidifying fertilizer used in agriculture today, and that acidity can further degrade nodules.

SO4 – a pH neutral sulfur source

SO4, which is pelletized gypsum, is a pH neutral sulfur source. Its natural solubility meets plant needs for sulfur throughout the growing season. An added benefit is the addition of calcium to replace that lost in the previous season’s harvest.

Increased soybean acres projected for 2017

Due to various agricultural economic metrics, 2017 appears to be on track for the largest soybean crop ever planted in the United States. The USDA predicts 85.5 million acres planted this year, 1.8 million more than last year.

Soybean and nodule health will be more important than ever with the predicted increase in acres planted. Ensure you are making the best decisions for crop health, including nodules, to maximize yields.

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Rescuing Sulfur Deficiency with Topdress Application of SO4

SO4 vs No Sulfur

Photo above: 2016 sulfur trial on corn in Kanawha, Iowa at the ISU Northern Research Farm. SO4 applied at 150 lbs/acre (left) and no sulfur applied (right). SO4 application resulted in a 30 bu/acre increase compared to no sulfur.

Expect Sulfur Deficiency

With seemingly endless rainfall this spring, we can expect widespread sulfur deficiency as corn continues to emerge. The problem is that sulfate is easily leached from where the young corn roots need it in wet years. Sulfur deficiency shows up in the youngest leaves of the plant, and consists of green and yellow stripes in the leaves. Many confuse nitrogen deficiency with sulfur deficiency, and the most likely scenario is that it’s sulfur and not nitrogen since most growers typically put out more than enough nitrogen to meet crop needs.

To compound this problem, wet springs often mean that sulfur applications were skipped or postponed in lieu of getting seed in the ground during short windows of opportunity. Further, most sulfur sources that can quickly supply sulfur to the crop via topdress application have high burn potential.

Topdress SO4

SO4 is the perfect sulfur source for any application scenario, but the ability to topdress SO4 without any concern over crop burn makes it stand out against other sources.

Research conducted at Iowa State University with SO4 has shown that green-up will occur in less than 1 week with topdress applications up to V6.

SO4 Application Rates

How much sulfur you need to apply for your crop depends on your soil type. In coarse textured soils with low organic matter content, shoot for about 25 lbs of sulfur per acre (150 lbs/acre of SO4); for finer textured soils with 3% organic matter or more, application rates closer to 17 lbs of sulfur per acre should suffice (100 lbs/acre of SO4).

It’s hard to accurately predict where and when sulfur deficiency will occur, but you can save your yield potential and correct in-season sulfur deficiency with topdress applications of SO4.

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Natural vs. Synthetic Gypsum

Synthetic Gypsum

What is Gypsum?
Gypsum is a mineral that has been used in agriculture for a long time. Its chemical name is calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4 • 2H2O). It provides a sulfur source in the plant available form, sulfate, and provides calcium – both essential nutrients in crop production.

SO4 is naturally mined gypsum
SO4 is pelletized from gypsum that is naturally mined in northwest Iowa. Gypsum deposits were left behind when inland seas that used to cover Iowa dried up and receded.

Synthetic gypsum is a byproduct of burning coal
In contrast, synthetic gypsum (photo above) is a byproduct of burning coal. This source is commonly referred to as synthetic or flue gas desulfurized (FGD) gypsum. Power plants have ‘scrubbers’ that control emissions from their flue stacks. The process in its entirety is called flue gas desulfurization.

In short, these scrubbers filter by forcing sulfur dioxide and calcium carbonate (limestone) to react with one another, which creates calcium sulfite (CaSO3). Most power plants also use an additional step called ‘forced oxidation,’ whereby the calcium sulfite is oxidized to calcium sulfate, or synthetic gypsum. The resulting moist material is either landfilled or used in various industries around the U.S. – wallboard for instance. 

Challenges with synthetic gypsum
There are a few challenges with synthetic gypsum worth considering:
1. Coal contains heavy metals, which are generally isolated in the scrubbing process but occasionally can end up in the synthetic gypsum, raising obvious concerns about agricultural applications.
2. In bulk form, the material contains high moisture levels, making it difficult to spread and manage. As a result, recommended application rates are in the 1,000+ lbs/A range, which can create imbalance in the soil. These rates lack scientific evidence supporting their use in Midwest agriculture.
3. The purity of synthetic gypsum is only as good as the starting feedstock (limestone) and the system that produces it, creating highly variable chemical characteristics. Because of its synthetic/by-product nature, it will never be registered for organic use.

Synthetic gypsum is difficult and expensive to pelletize due to its fine particle size and requires the use of specialized binders and additives. This results in slow breakdown and activity in the field.

In summary, natural gypsum is mined from the earth while synthetic gypsum is a byproduct of burning coal. SO4 is pelletized, natural gypsum. It’s consistent pellet size allows it to blended and applied with other dry fertilizers.

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More sulfur updates...

While reading the 2012 Annual Farm Progress Reports from Iowa State University’s Northern Research Farm in Kanawha, IA, we discovered another trial investigating sulfur fertilization via gypsum on corn. The impetus for the study was the same as the Iowa Soybean Association’s; sulfur deficiencies are becoming widespread in both corn and alfalfa in Iowa and many other midwestern states. The experiment was performed by Dr. John Sawyer and David Rueber of Iowa State University.

Four rates of sulfur (5, 10, 20, 40 lbs/A) were applied to two different soils—one with low organic matter and a slope, and one with higher OM and less slope—as was a non-treated control (no sulfur) to compare differences throughout 2011 and 2012. These rates were applied to corn in 2011 and soybeans in 2012. The 2011 plots were planted to corn after soybean in 2011 and planted to corn again in 2012 to test residual effects of sulfur application. In 2012, additional plots were planted to soybean from corn the previous year.  

In June 2011, corn leaf greenness was visibly different among plots that had sulfur applied vs. those that did not, as well as having taller plants. By late June, there was still a height difference but the color differences were diminished. Despite visual differences, there was no difference in yield between the treated and non-treated pltos.

This is where it gets interesting… 

In 2012, the plots that had received sulfur in 2011 showed no visible differences from those that did not, unlike the differences in 2011. However, when harvest time came, there was an increase in corn yield for sulfur treated plots as a whole when averaged and compared against the non-treated control plots. So, there’s something happening with the sulfur in the soil from year to year that isn’t being accounted for that has increased corn yield as a residual effect. This is similar to what we saw with the Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network trials over the last few years; residual activity from sulfur application making a yield difference a year after we thought it would.

Soybeans did not show any statistically different response to the sulfur application in 2012.

This study will continue in 2013 and we are excited to see the results.

 

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 Cr

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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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Agri-Trend 2012: Farm Forum Event

Our own Craig Dick is headed north to the Agri-Trend 2012: Farm Forum Event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. It's a conference and trade show and we're thrilled to be there with our distributor, ENR Distribution.

Craig will actually be speaking on Wednesday afternoon. He is going to cover the agronomic role soil pH, calcium and sulfur play in soil fertility and high yielding crops. If you're at the event, come learn why you can't afford to ignore these critical yield increasing items.

If Craig gets a chance to attend other sessions, he'll be tweeting about them with the hashtag #FFE12. Follow us on Twitter to read the insight he shares.

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Iowa Independent Crop Consultants Meeting

 

I spoke today to the Iowa independent Crop Consultants Association about Sulfur. Was a great group of guys who asked a ton of questions.

Here is the link to my presentation http://prezi.com/chqgvtiqpnul/sulfur/

Here are some quick links to our literature on Sulfur:

 Calcium & sulfur fertilization

SuperCal SO4

SO4 vs FGD

Blog Artilces on Sulfur

Thanks for the opportunity to present today!

 

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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Iowa Independent Crop Consultants Meeting

 

I spoke today to the Iowa independent Crop Consultants Association about Sulfur. Was a great group of guys who asked a ton of questions.

Here is the link to my presentation http://prezi.com/chqgvtiqpnul/sulfur/

Here are some quick links to our literature on Sulfur:

 Calcium & sulfur fertilization

SuperCal SO4

SO4 vs FGD

Blog Artilces on Sulfur

Thanks for the opportunity to present today!

 

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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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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