Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Cation Exchange Capacity
Soil has measureable capacity to hold onto cations, and each soil is different. The ability to hang onto cations is called the cation exchange capacity, and it is similar to the seating capacity at a restaurant, say, Dirt Diner. The cations won’t stick around forever; they will come in, sit down for a while, move around, and may move on. The more chairs at the restaurant, the more cations can be “seated”. That increases the cation exchange capacity of the soil, the CEC, and the nutrients available to plants.
The saturation percentage in your soil report tells you the proportions of different cations eating at Dirt Diner, or what percentage of your diners (cations) are calcium, how many are magnesium, potassium, and so on. The tricky thing here is that aluminum and hydrogen are also cations, but they are acidic. Knowing the proportion of non-acid to acid cations can help you understand the sources of acidity in your soil.
When soil pH goes up, so does CEC. The hydrogen ions (the “H” of pH) are cations too, and are taking the seats that non-acid cations would otherwise hold. If you have acidic soil and you can get your soil to a near neutral pH, you are also helping to improve your CEC.
We want a higher CEC so our soils hang on to those positive charges, and increasing organic matter is one way we can try to do that. Organic matter has a lot of negative charge, so it can attract a lot of positive charge. It adds lots of seating at "Dirt Diner." Dirt Diner sounds catchier than Soil Diner. I was taught you sweep up dirt in your house but you treat your soil like a King!
Clay soils, especially shrink-swell clays, carry a lot of negative charge, contributing to the CEC. You may fight those soils when they are very wet and very dry, but at least they are holding nutrients.
You may not absolutely need to know CEC cold in order to be a good grower, but at least now you have a better look at what’s going on at an atomic level to make your plants grow."
- See more at: http://onpasture.com/2013/08/12/soil-chemistry-are-you-kidding-cec-in-400-words/#sthash.9z3ebSdu.dpuf
Don't Guess, Soil Test and back it up with a tissue test!
It's time to start tissue testing cereal grains and pastures. Have you tested your crop and your soil today?