Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Soil pH and Nutrient Release

There have been many questions this winter on how much lime do I need, how do I manage my high magnesium and high pH soils and how should I fertilize?  Soils deficient in calcium with excess magnesium is my specialty and more common in the Midwest, especially east of the Mississippi.

Here is an old piece that is a great read.  I've referred to it the last 20 years or so or something similar.  I love the old chart that shows how the different minerals are available at various pH's.  I always made my students read aloud what was available at 6.5 pH and then look up the "ideal pH" for different crops.

I've used the Soil Test Reliability Rating chart in most of my talks.  The idea is the soil test sure isn't perfect but it's still better than any guess or just crop removal.  The recommendations will often come up to crop removal but neither one addresses micro nutrients.  This is why I like to pull tissue tests at flower and several times before if I am really trying to learn how my crop responds to weather and management.

Usually there isn't a dime's worth of difference in one tissue test to the next in the same field so my goal is to pull one sample for every field I farm and encourage all of you to do the same.  Then we have something to discuss on these cold winter days.  How should I address my need for Boron and Manganese?  What's the best way for me to apply my zinc?  How do I get my tissue test result up to Sufficient for every tested nutrient?  What happened with my management compared to the weather I had this year?  Did I maximize my results?

I am 64 and I am finally enjoying really good crops every year with pretty good test results.  I've spread more lime and fertilizer than I ever did in my life, though.  Gypsum and soft rock phosphate produced the best crops in the county this year.  We had about seven extra inches of water to make these programs all work.

Here are two good threads on how to handle high pH or calcareous soils like our good friend Wilson has in Texas.  If you have high pH and struggle what to do with it, I would email him and Darren Hefty at Hefty Seed.  I've seen those two gentlemen do a great job on high pH soils because they both have experience with it.

This week is a good one to ponder these questions, get your prices and formulate your plan.

I know what I have to do if I can just get it done.  2013 was a very good year for me to get into this position.

Ed Winkle

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