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Lime Is Effective Pit Stop on Road Back to Soil Health

Lime Is Effective Pit Stop on Road Back to Soil Health
Start with a lime application if you want to restore soil health.

It's likely you've been to at least one meeting this winter where someone talked about soil health and cover crops. If not, you must have skipped the winter meeting season altogether. It was one of the hottest topics going, and with good reason. Those who are making no-till and cover crops work are showing better yields and demonstrating that their soil is responding to being treated with more care.

Steve Gauck, a regional agronomist with Beck's Hybrids, based in Greensburg, talked about soil health to farmers at the 20th annual Ripley County No-Till Breakfast. He says that if you want to get back on the road to restoring soil health, there's an easy place to start.

Improve the soil: Apply lime if the pH is low. Gypsum will also help the soil by adding sulfur and increasing infiltration rate, but it is not the same as applying lime to correct low pH issues.

"Liming and raising pH is an easier fix than many other things," he says. It's easy to understand, and soil test can determine if your soils are low in pH or not. If they are, the solution is one step – adding lime. If recommendations are very high because the pH is very low, you may need to break it up into more than one application.

"You need to keep that pH level above 6.0 or the availability of some nutrients, especially phosphorus, goes way down," he says. He notes that if you're getting on 200 units of nitrogen per acre on low pH soil, you might get the same results with 150 pounds of N per acre if the soil pH was in the correct range.

What kind of lime you apply will depend upon the calcium and magnesium levels in your soil, he adds. If you're low in calcium, you may want to apply a lime high in calcium content. But if your problem is low magnesium levels, dolomitic lime contains more magnesium, and would be the better choice.

Most quarries sample their lime, and can tell you the content of calcium and magnesium. If you need one or the other, it may mean paying more to bring it from a quarry which is farther away, but it should be worth it in the long run.

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