Calcium Products - Displaying items by tag: soil quality

Calcium Products - Displaying items by tag: soil quality

What is soil quality?

We have always talked about the importance of soil quality. Improving soil quality is the number one thing you can do to improve yields on your farm.

What is it that we are talking about when we say "Soil Quality"?

At soilquality.org they have a couple of definitions.

"Fitness for use" (Larson and Pierce, 1991) and "the capacity of a soil to function” (Karlen et al., 1997). Taken together, these two definitions means that soil quality is the ability of the soil to perform the functions necessary for its intended use.

and

Probably the most comprehensive definition of soil quality to date was published by the Soil Science Society of America's Ad Hoc Committee on Soil Quality (S-581) as "the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function, within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation" (Karlen et al., 1997).

 

In our own words - Soil quality is the ability of a soil to function properly.

 

The soil needs to perform 5 essential functions properly to be considered a quality soil.

Nutrient Cycling - Soil stores, moderates the release of, and cycles nutrients and other elements. During these biogeochemical processes, analogous to the water cycle, nutrients can be transformed into plant available forms, held in the soil, or even lost to air or water.

Water Relations - Soil can regulate the drainage, flow and storage of water and solutes, which includes nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides, and other nutrients and compounds dissolved in the water. With proper functioning, soil partitions water for groundwater recharge and for use by plants and soil animals.

Biodiversity and Habitat - Soil supports the growth of a variety of plants, animals, and soil microorganisms, usually by providing a diverse physical, chemical, and biological habitat.

Filtering and Buffering - Soil acts as a filter to protect the quality of water, air, and other resources. Toxic compounds or excess nutrients can be degraded or otherwise made unavailable to plants and animals.

Physical Stability and Support - Soil has the ability to maintain its porous structure to allow passage of air and water, withstand erosive forces, and provide a medium for plant roots. Soils also provide anchoring support for human structures and protect archeological treasures.

We will walk you through these functions in future articles!

You can learn more at www.soilquality.org.  The website is a collaboration between the NRCS East National Technology Support Center, NRCS National Soil Survey Center, ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, NCERA-59 Scientists, and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 

 

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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How Floods Affect Soils

For those of you that experienced flooding last year, you may be wondering how your soils will perform this year.

An article in Science Daily, discuss the impact of floods on soil.

Key Points From the Article:

Soil aggregation is an important soil attribute that is related to the physical-chemical state of the soil, and is one of the essential processes that determine soil quality. Loss of soil aggregation impacts agriculture by decreasing soil quality and crop production.

The research revealed that the aggregate stability of upland soils was decreased under reducing conditions from short-term water ponding. The decrease in aggregate stability reached approximately 20% during a 14-day ponding period, which is quite significant in terms of soil disaggregation. Changes in redox sensitive elements (increases in Mg, Fe), alkaline metals, and dissolved organic carbon (reductions in carbon) under reducing conditions contributed to the decrease in aggregate stability.

Overall, the aggregate stability of cultivated soils was more affected by the reducing conditions than that of uncultivated soils. This indicates that the management system plays an important role in the stability of aggregates.

The authors believe that once the reducing reactions take place in the field and disaggregation has occurred, the process will not reverse itself because the natural drainage will carry away the released chemicals and the chemistry of the soil-water system will not return to the original state. The disintegrated aggregates may clog the soil pores and further degrade the soil structure.
What does all this mean?

Soils that have been flooded need more nutrients replaced since more than N-P-K are leached. You should think about calcium, sulfur, zinc, boron, and organic carbons when looking to restore flooded ground.

Keeping you soil free of hard pans will help to reduce the chance that soils will flood. Don't work soils when wet and deep rip when needed.

 

 

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 blame game

We talk about soil quality a lot on this blog. It should be the thing you focus most on. Having a soil that is soft, stable, and has good organic matter makes everything else work better.

It's not the seed companies fault that corn lodges in your field if it is hard as concrete, has low organic matter, and low calcium levels.
It's not the chemical companies fault that there chemicals don't kill foxtail in your fields if the pH is too low or soil calcium levels are low.

It's not the equipment dealers fault their planter balls up with mud if the soil is damp, has little organic matter, or low calcium levels.

 end row shovel

Soil is less sticky and prone to compaction when calcium and organic matter levels are high


It's up to you to take the steps to develep your fields into quality soils. It won't be done by phosporous or potash alone. It startes with a full soil analysis and applying the right fertilizers in the right amount.

When you start to get it right your enjoy farming alot more. It will be easy to beat the county average in yield, you'll be planting and harvesting 2 to 3 days sooner than your neighbors after a rain - without causing compaction. Rain won't pond on your fields, it will be absorbed by the soil waiting in reserve for hot dry days.

garden_structure.JPG 
The above picture was taken today, we have had over an inch possibly as much as 3 inches (it's been hard to tell, most of the rain has been coming in sideways).

 

You can continue to fight the seed, chemical, and equipment companies, or you can make a few simple changes that will have a much bigger reward than a few small product rebates. After all it's no ones fault but yours if your soil is in poor condition.

 

 

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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2008 Great Plains Soil Fertility Conference

This week I attended the 2008 Great Plains Soil Fertility Conference, held biennially in Denver Colorado. This program is put on by the International Plant Nutrition Institute and is attended by over 100 Industry and Academic Agronomy Researchers.

Over 40 research papers are presented in this 2-day program. While the pace of the presentations is quite fast there is ample time to discuss ideas, and new agronomy techniques with many of agricultures best-known researchers.

Jerry Hatfield presented “The Implications of Biofuels Production on Soil Productivity”. While removal of crop residue after harvest is viewed as a major source of cellulosic material, the implications need to be considered. Removal of large amounts of nutrients, decrease in soil organic matter, decrease is soil water holding capacity, leading to severe soil crusting and other environmental impacts.

Mr. Hatfield has authored many papers on soil quality, organic matter and carbon. So many I didn’t even consider counting them. In one of his previous papers on achieving high yields he states,

“Achieving high yields is not an art but requires the implementation of an understanding of the principles that affect yield. To achieve high yields requires patience to first improve the soil and then begin to adopt management strategies that increase the efficiency of water, solar radiation, and N use. Evaluation of how these factors respond each season for the crops grown in the field and then compare against the county average will determine if progress is being made toward achieving the higher yields.”

Understanding what you are doing, why your doing it, and measuring the results is what it takes to achieve high yields.

Dr. Robert Miller gave a great presentation on ""Impact of Grid Point Sampling Intensity on Phosphorus and Potassium Uncertainty”. What this means is, if you are grid sampling, are they pulling enough soil cores for the composite to be sure that it is an accurate test of what is actually in the soil. Though his research he found that full tillage, minimal tillage and no-till needed different amounts of cores to be sure of accurate sampling. Full tillage means the soil is more uniformly mixed so 6-8 cores per sample point gives an accurate test, in minimal tillage shoot for 8-12. For no-till the best accuracy will require between 26-40 cores. Since no one has the time to do that many, we have to settle for less accuracy and pull 12-14 cores. This gives a 20% variability in the sample readings.

While not all the presentations are directly related to the crops and climate most of our customer’s farm, I always come away with new and helpful information. You must constantly looking for new information to increase yields, start with the basics, (soil sampling, liming, building nutrient levels) and build on that.

 

 

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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5 Things to achieve high yields

We learned at the university that it takes nitrogen, starter, planting the proper hybrid, planting earlier, and increasing population to grow corn. However, most growers don't grow 300 bushel corn, but are doing the above 5 things. So what are the farmers that grow high yield corn doing, they are focusing on their soil.

Soil sample
Not just for P and pH, do a full analysis. While having enough P and the proper pH are some major limiting factors, they are not all of them. Do a full analysis at least every other year. If you're having a field grid sampled, have them pull a couple of extra samples to run a full analysis on.

Budget for soil maintenance
Top producing farmers know that their soil will always perform if they add back what they take every year. Plan on a yearly maintenance program, budgeting money for lime and/or gypsum, P, secondary, and micronutrients. Once you're in a nutrient deficient situation, it takes time and is expensive to correct.

Scout the whole field
Scout the soil, stop scouting only half your crop; know what is happening in the root zone. Most farmers are only concerned with what is happening with their crop above ground. They neglect more than half the plant. Dig next to the row, how are the roots growing, is there a visible hard pan, is moisture making it down into the soil profile, do you have large numbers of earthworms. If you cannot get a shovel in the ground by standing on it, you have compaction and your roots will not be able grow properly.

Proper residue management
Residue management starts with the header attachment on the combine. With corn make sure the header is processing the stalks, and the combine is only processing the ear and husks. Not only will this increase combine efficiency, it will distribute the residue more evenly, resulting in faster decomposition of stalks. Complete and proper decomposition increases organic matter and returns valuable nutrients to the soil.

Figure out what else is missing
For many farmers it is not a lack of N, P, K or pH that is keeping their yields low it is something else. Ignore lack of rainfall, and other things that are out of your control. Think about the things you can change; tillage, micronutrient levels, and organic matter. If your having problems achieving high yields, it is likely due to one or more problems associated with your soil.

Calcium Products, lower input costs, higher yields, better soil

 

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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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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Lab Difference in Soil Quality

As reported in past blogs about the importance of soil quality (A Pictorial of High Quality Soil, Improving Water Infiltration, and Quality Soil Update) I promised that I would run soil tests on the field and the garden. There were some striking differences. The garden had almost double the organic matter, much better pH, and double the calcium content. Download the soil tests here.

One of the main differences is pH, the field has a pH of 5.0 compared to the garden, which had 6.5 pH.

Fun Facts:

At a pH of 5.0 the potential yield of corn is reduced by 27%, soybeans by 21% and alfalfa by 91%.

At a pH of 5.0 1/2 of N, 1/3 of P, and 1/2 of K is unavailable for plant uptake.

At a pH of 5.0 nodulation is reduced up to 40%

With the high costs of fertilizer and fuel, wouldn't it make sense to make those inputs work harder for you? Working to improve you soil quality makes high priced fertilizers more available to your plants, resulting in decreased costs. High quality soils allow irrigation water and rainfall to infiltrate into the pore space, making it available to plants. Ponding is the first sign that water is not entering the soil, eventually causing de-nitrification, and evaporating, wasting fuel, fertilizer, and lowering yield.

Adding SuperCal 98G pelletized lime and SuperCal SO4 pelletized gypsum to your fertility program will ensure your soils maintain the proper pH, superior infiltration rates, reduce future input costs, decrease soil erosion, and increase yields.

Calcium Products, lower input costs, higher yields, better soil

 

 

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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A Pictorial of High Quality Soil

We talk a lot about having good soil quality. What does that mean exactly for the farmer. When it rains excessively for a couple of days, you'll be in your field a day or two before your neighbors. Roots will penetrate deeper with less energy required, which means more energy goes to grain development. Deeper roots mean more access to moisture and better standablity.


The following are some pictures showing the difference between a quality soil and a poor soil.

infiltration_difference_in_soil_quality.JPG 

This a picture of my garden and a neighboring field. This has been a garden for two years. The field is a corn soybean rotation. It was field cultivated this spring, then planted to seed corn.

 

end_row_shovel.JPG

This is a shovel in the end rows. I stepped on the shovel with one foot, placing all my weight (260#) on it. It only penetrated 3-4"". This is pretty compacted, with poor water infiltration. Note corn roots generally cannot penetrate more than 300 psi. My estimate is that the shovel had over 350 psi on it.

 

end_row_t_line.JPG

This picture shows the hole I dug in the end rows. It became impossible to dig after 14"". I had to use the shovel as a pick to chip away the soil. It shows the tillage line about 4"" down. You can see the soil is saturated to that point, after that it is moist, but not wet.

 

shovel_in_field.JPG

Just for comparison I stepped on the shovel 150 yards out into the field. It did not go in much farther than on the end rows. Also you can see excessive ponding of water signifying poor structure, poor infiltration, and compaction.

 

garden_shovel.JPG

This picture shows the shovel in the garden. It slid in all the way very easily with about half my weight applied.

 

garden_hole.JPG

This is the hole dug into the garden. It dug easily to a depth of 21". Note - no saturation of soil.
In the field the shovel only penetrated 4", in the garden the shovel easily penetrated 12". If the shovel cannot penetrate the ground roots will not be able to either. 

 

garden_structure.JPG

This picture shows that high quality soil stays aggregated even during heavy rain events.

 

 

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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