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Fix Soil pH Before Going To No-Till

Fix Soil pH Before Going To No-Till
How much lime should you apply before implementing a no-till program?

You just rented a farm and want to convert it to no-till because that's your standard system. You get the soil test results back and are shocked to learn the soil pH is so low that the lab is recommending six tons per acre. That's a high load for one application, plus it's costly. Yet you want to be ready for no-till, and you know it's important to have spoil pH in shape. What should you do?

GET MIXING: Some sort of tillage with a tool like this will get fields with very low soil pH ready for no-till.

Bryan Overstreet, Jasper County Extension ag educator and an Indiana Certified Crop Adviser, says you might consider splitting up the application. Put three tons on now and work the field one more time. Then wait a year or two after you've switched to no-till and hit it with another three tons of lime per acre.

If you don't even want to till this fall, Overstreet still recommends putting on two tons now and two tons in a couple of years. With a pH that low, you may be seeing nutrient deficiencies, perhaps toxicities, and that could certainly affect how crop herbicides perform.

Betsy Bower, Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute and also a CCA, says what you do all depends upon how much tillage you're willing to do to get the field ready for no-till. Applying on top won't give mixing. You're counting on the lime to leach into the soil, and that takes time. It also depends upon the fineness of the grade of the soil. Finer lime should react more quickly.

The ideal way to mix lime is moldboard plowing. If that's not feasible your next best alternative is likely chisel plowing. However, you can expect that the lime will only mix to about half the depth that you are chiseling. Another option is to work lime in with a lighter tillage tool, including a vertical tillage tool, but you won't get as much mixing as if you work it in deeper.

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