About Your Fields, September 4, 2018
In this issue:
1. The importance of Lime
2. What's Next?
The Importance of Lime
As I finish up our fall review of the necessary nutrients that are needed to grow a good crop year after year, I feel that I have saved the most important one for last: lime. This is the one product that I feel you can not skip out on. If you need lime you better put lime on the field. I would like to start off by discussing why we need to spread lime. There is a simple reason why you need lime: nitrogen. When you apply nitrogen to your soil before you grow corn, your soil's pH will be affected by the release of Hydrogen ions (H+) by the nitrogen source. The type of nitrogen used will determine how many H+ ions are released. Nitrate forms of fertilizer will release less H+ ions than ammonium forms. In order to counter act the hydrogen in the soil you need calcium to correct the pH and that is where lime comes into place. The primary component of lime is calcium carbonate, which will counteract the hydrogen attacking your soil's pH. I want to point out that I have not used the term aglime once in my introduction. The reason for this is simple, there are different types of lime for you to use and we will discuss the pros and cons of a couple of them.
First off, lime is needed for pH correction in your soil. If your pH is too high or too low, that will factor in to what you need to grow a good crop affecting things such as nutrient availability. In the past when we set a goal of getting your pH to be around 6.5. The idea behind this is that is where the optimum range for a lot of the key nutrients are available. If you look at the chart below you will see this might not necessarily be the case. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulphur, Iron, Manganese, Boron, Copper and Zinc have good availability down close to a pH of 6. We have always shot for a pH of 6.5 because we knew if we shot for 6.5 we would probably keep it above 6 for most of the 4 years between the times that lime was spread.
If you look at a breakdown of a lime sample from a quarry you will see that there is a large number of large particles that can not pass through a 100-mesh screen. It is these smaller particles that will react with the soil and raise the pH the quickest. Over time the larger particles will breakdown and react with the soil. Because of these different sizes of particles and the inconsistency of the rate that they breakdown, we will see peaks and valleys in what the pH of your soil is at throughout the 4 years between spreading. These peaks and valleys will cause your yields to potentially have peaks and valleys. If you happen to be growing corn when enough lime is breaking down to have a pH over 6.0 you could have a good crop. Whatever crop is being grown when less particles are breaking down that crops yield could be potentially hurt. One way that you can try to flatten out these peaks and valleys is to spread lime more frequently. To do this with traditional aglime could be cost prohibitive as well as potentially getting things out of balance. One way to spread more often is to use pelletized lime. We have been using a product that is milled to the point that 90% of it could pass through a 100-mesh screen or smaller screen. It is then processed into a pellet which will give it more consistency when spread. Once this pellet hits the ground and is exposed to moisture it will then breakdown. It is recommended that you spread pell lime after corn and you use 1.5 pounds for every pound of actual N applied. By doing this you should be able to keep your pH in a more stable range for optimum nutrient availability. Using pell lime is more expensive than ag lime if you try and correct your pH every 4 years. We still recommend that you test every 4 years and if the field needs a massive correction then spread regular ag lime. It is our hope that if you use pell lime after corn you might not need to spread to have the large corrections. If you have any questions about what liming material would be good for you talk with one of the agronomists at Akron Services.
This is the part of the newsletter that we always talk about what's coming up that you need to pay attention to in order to grow a better crop. As I close out my time of employment at Akron Services with this last newsletter, here are some things I want you to remember from past newsletters and other observations that I have had. One of the first things that we talked about this spring was not cutting costs just to be cutting your dollars spent. Instead, be more efficient in how you spend your dollars. Make sure you are getting the most bang for the dollars that you spend, this means that you spend on things that will make you money, don't just cut something to save. For example, if you decide to save $5 and not spray ENC and you lose 10 to 15 bushels of yield, are you ahead? If you have $3 corn, and you lose 10 bushels, you lost $30 per acre to save $5. Now I know you say that those 10 bushels are not guaranteed, but out testing has shown that is what ENC has been consistently returning the past 7 years. The same thing could be said about fungicide, those of you who skipped that particular pass this summer could be sorry here in a few weeks when the combines start to harvest. I guess the best way to sum up this line of thinking is that "You can't save yourself to prosperity." We also talked about how a crop is like building a house, you must have a good foundation and build up from that. Remember that you need to use the proper products, at the proper rate, at the proper time if you want to have good weed control. Do not skimp on your adjuvants if you have tough to control weeds. And the last little bit of my thoughts that I want to share is, if you want to hit the goal of 300-bushel corn and 100-bushel beans you have to learn how to feed the crop differently. If I have seen one thing these past seven years that I have been chasing this goal, it is that you need to look at things like bioscience products and nutritionals. The new area that has piqued our interest is soil health. At our plots this year we are looking at several different types of products that will help with soil health. I would like to thank you for reading what I have put out these last few years and I look forward to seeing what you do in the future. In closing I would like to thank the Wagenbach family for allowing me to chase these goals the past few years, and I would like to thank all of the employees and customers of Akron Services for your support.