Good Morning All!
Welcome to the November edition of Healthy Soil Solutions Monthly. We’re smack in the middle of Fall soil amendment season, and the season’s most popular product, gypsum, is tight on supply. Without focusing on the logistical challenges that led to this issue, we’d like to instead present an alternative solution that can greatly improve the salinity-mitigating effects of gypsum and improve your soil structure.
Below is a feature written by Russell Taylor, CEO of Live Earth Products, and President of the Humic Products Trade Association, our partner supplying our humate products, about the solutions we have for dealing with salinity and the ways in which humates can facilitate the leaching of sodium in addition to having a huge impact on improving soil health.
Contact your Penny Newman sales rep to learn more about how we can save the day in this market void of gypsum and, for now, please enjoy this feature by Russel Taylor:
Using the Right Tool for the Job
By Russell Tayler, Live Earth Products
For many growers, fall is typically the time to amend soils with gypsum, the go-to tool in the west to fix soil problems. Gypsum is applied to supply calcium (a “good salt”). The calcium found in gypsum is used to counteract the harm that excessive sodium (a “bad salt”) can cause.
Sodic soils tend to develop poor structure and drainage over time as sodium ions increase and cause the soil particles to deflocculate or disperse. Degraded soil aggregates further contribute to high sodium soils that are hard and cloddy when dry and tend to crust. Water intake is usually insufficient with sodic soils, and the soil pH is typically high, often above 8.0, which also causes plant nutritional imbalances and overall reduced micronutrient availability.
When soils are high in sodium, the goal is to replace the sodium with calcium and then leach the sodium out. This process takes sufficient quality and volume of water to dissolve and properly leach the displaced sodium beyond the root zone. Without proper leaching, amendments can further contribute to the salt-index in the soil profile.
There are two ways to generate enough free calcium to encourage sodium displacement:
- add more calcium soil amendments or
- dissolve the limestone and gypsum already present in the soil.
If excess soil calcium is held in the form of lime, then that calcium can be released with acidifying fertilizers and soil amendments like humates.
There is a common myth that gypsum can lower soil pH. It doesn't.
Since gypsum is a neutral salt, it can't lower pH. The sulfur in gypsum is a sulfate form that is already oxidized. Meaning no reaction can occur with the sulfate ions to create free hydrogen ions to help reduce soil pH. The Wester Fertilizer handbook clearly illustrates that “sulfate has no characteristic action on soil except to contribute to the total salt content.”
To lower soil pH, many growers turn to other soil management tools like elemental sulfur. The application of elemental sulfur alone isn't enough to reduce pH because further reactions must occur.
Acidification by elemental sulfur only happens biologically when Thiobacillus oxidizes sulfur. Thiobacillus is an acid-loving bacteria and is most active in acid environments. The result on soils with a high pH, when applying elemental sulfur, is a slow process, especially if the sulfur's microbial oxidization does not occur.
Farmers are now looking for more effective tools like humates to make measurable improvements on tough soils. Humates contain natural organic acids along with micronutrients and minerals. Because the organic acids in humates are true acids and require no further conversion, reaction with lime happens quickly.
Consider adding Live Earth Humate Soil Conditioner to your soil amendment plan to release calcium faster and improve soil characteristics. Live Earth Soil Conditioner is 100% naturally mined humate. It has a pH of 3.0, and when applied to high pH soils, it immediately reacts with soil lime and helps to releases nutrients. When used as a concentrate, you can actually see the soil start to bubble around the application area. Live Earth Humate contains only aged plant material; it's completely safe to use.
The acidification from Humate Soil Conditioner releases calcium and makes other nutrients like iron and zinc available to plants.
Further, Live Earth Soil Condition is high in stable carbon, improving soil structure, plant growth, and root development. Humates improve soil aggregate, which facilitates soil drainage, assists the leaching of salts.
Farmers don’t use one tool for every job. Don’t rely on one amendment to fix all of your soil problems. By utilizing a three-pronged approach to improving western soils with gypsum, elemental sulfur, and humate, you'll see faster improvements in high pH soils. Improving soil health will help achieve higher yields, better water utilization, and greater ROI.
-The Team at Penny Newman Farm Products Division