IMPORTANCE OF SOIL pH
Soil pH can cause a wide array of changes in soil performance. The importance of pH levels can often be detrimental if overlooked. The first and most important factor of soil pH is its ability to effectuate nutrient transportation and uptake. As soil becomes more acidic it becomes harder for nutrients to move through the soil and to reach the plant. This is caused by hydrogen ions in the soil, and can very seriously affect the performance of a crop.
A pH of 5.0 can mean that over 50% of the soils nutrients
are bound up and unavailable for use by the plant. What
this also means is that additional nutrients applied
(fertilizers), can have serious loss in effectiveness. When
soil acidity is neutralized, the pH is neutralized, and the
pH is raised, these nutrients are freed up allowing for
proper movement in the soil. This alone can be the
difference between a great performing field, and one
that hardly grows at all.
The second factor of soil pH, and is one that is a very
good telltale of poor soil pH, is weeds. Weeds such as
broomsedge thrive in acidic soil and become more
abundant as soil pH declines. These grasses become
more and more of a pest when left untreated.
While herbicides are a good short term solution, the true
issue lies deeper within the soil. These common grass
weeds need the acidic soil conditions to live and
reproduce, and when those negative conditions are
eliminated so too are the weeds.
By applying calcium to the soil and raising soil levels these weeds can truly be eliminated. What this does is create an environment in which the weed will not germinate and take root.
The third factor of acidic soil is nutrient toxicity. In low pH soils, when the availability of phosphorus and nitrogen are decreased, nutrients such as aluminum can become toxic to the plant. What this results in is decreased root growth and/or improper root spread. Improper root growth decreases nutrient uptake and water uptake by the plant, seriously affecting growth and production. In this way low soil pH can start to form a choke on the plant, impeding growth and reducing output.
Before and after soil test from AgriTec Customer after using Advanced-Cal showing neutralized soil acidity.
Soil acidity, if left untreated, can cripple a fields ability to perform. It can seriously decrease output in the short term, but has serious effects in the long term as well. If soil pH is left untreated for extended periods of time (10 years or more), research has shown that microorganism and primary nutrient materials can be lost from the soil all together. With Bio-Activators such as Form 14-72 and Gro-Energizer these effects can be reversed and life can be restored to the soil, but only after or in unison with rectifying soil pH levels. On the contrary, when soil pH is within the proper range the field can produce at its full potential and grow the most nutritious grass possible.
Standard vs. Optimum pH
There are six main soil types: clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky, and loamy. Out of these the most common 3 here in the US are clay, sandy and loamy, all of which tend to have acidic soil pH levels. An acidic soil can commonly be classified as any soil with a pH lower than 6.0, with 6.0 – 6.7 being classified as only slightly acidic. It is within this range of 6.0 and 6.7 that grass production is at its highest performance, and the soil is in the most ripe condition.
Base Saturation, Calcium Saturation, and pH
CEC stands for Cation Exchange Capacity. This is a measurement of the soil’s ability to retain nutrients and supply them to the plant. Specifically these positively charged nutrients, called cations, are calcium, magnesium, potassium and many micronutrients. Calcium accounts for the vast majority of these cations in the soil. Base saturation has a direct correlation with soil pH, meaning as base saturation of these nutrients, primarily calcium, is lowered so too the pH falls and the soil becomes acidic. When this base saturation is raised the it restores the soils ability to transport nutrients and in turn neutralizes pH. When a soil test reads low pH it will consequently show a low calcium saturation. A pH between 6.5 and 6.8 should read a base saturation of 80-
-90% and a calcium saturation of 70 – 75%.
This is the optimal calcium and base saturation
for the soil, and anything lower can result in
slowed plant growth and nutrient deficiency.
Calcium in the Plant
Calcium has many important roles aside from the part it plays in the soil. The most important of these being calcium’s role within the plant. Calcium is a critical nutrient to virtually all living things; it plays a key part in plant growth and health. Calcium plays a primary role in the plant has the main structure of the cell well. Calcium strengthens and makes up the cell wall, directly affecting growth potential of the plant. The strength of the cell wall is a plants primary defense against infections, both fungal and bacterial. As a component of cell walls, calcium is essential for cell division, and functions as a secondary messenger for nutrient uptake. What this means is plants must have proper calcium levels to produce new cells and maintain proper plant growth and production. Another huge benefit of calcium is its assistance in the minimizing of the effects of heat stress, and stress resulting from the plant freezing and thawing as well. Calciums effects on cell generation, cell strength and tissue generation are not only important in the leaves and fruit, but most directly affect root health and growth as well.
Many universities have studied the benefits of calcium in the soil and in plant health and production. AgriTec has also partnered with the USDA and with various universities in doing studies and field tests of Agritec’s products. Below are just a few quotes from varying universities.
Rutgers University " There are many calcium products promoted by industry as substitutes for Calcium Chloride (CaCl2). However extensive research and comparison of these products has yet to show an advantage over Calcium Chloride because it is one of the richest forms of calcium at the cheapest price.” Rutgers University research shows by applying calcium to the soil it releases nitrogen, phosphorus and some micro-nutrients from organic matter.
Research by Texas A&M on Use of Calcium and benefits in Crop Production:
Texas Agricultural Extension, Texas, A & M University System, “The increased ammonium absorption caused by calcium has interesting results. Photosynthesis increases and greater amounts of carbon dioxide are captured by the plant from the air, which increases the plants organic building blocks. When plants absorb more ammonium, less nitrogen remains in the soil and is subject to leaching...'
“Also, surplus nitrogen absorbed by plants is stored and is available to promote growth all season. In trials, both Bermuda grass and rye grass showed this effect, with denser growth and color (chlorophyll-photosynthesis) throughout the season. Using Soluble (Liquid) Calcium to Stimulate Plant Growth" Sam E. Feagley and Lloyd B. Fenn
Texas Agricultural Extension, Texas, A & M University System, "The plant roots cannot access nitrogen in an environment containing more than 32 percent ammonium. Roots can be killed, but usually they grow around the fertilizer bands. After the soil microbes have converted much of the banded ammonium to nitrate, then the roots can begin to use the nitrogen. When extra soluble calcium is applied with the fertilizer it lowers the pH of the fertilizer band, thus reducing its toxicity. If calcium is applied beyond precipitation requirements, it stimulates ammonium absorption by plants."
Texas Agricultural Extension, Texas, A & M University System, "Calcium increases ammonium, potassium and phosphorus absorption, release up to 44% more of the minerals that have been bound up in your soil due to low pH, stimulates photosynthesis, and increases cell structure in your plants to store more nutrients for your soil."