The soils in Atlantic Canada are naturally acidic and in order to have a productive field and/or lawn liming is fundamental. Liming is important on your lawn to limit weeds, as some prefer acidic soils, and promote growth in the grass. Lime promotes the production of your lawn by helping the grass absorb essential nutrients for growth. Grass grows best in a soil with a higher pH, and lime helps raise the pH.
Most crops are much like your lawn and grow better in higher pH soils. Failing to lime your fields’ causes your crop to grow in acidic soils which will greatly reduce yields; increasing your costs.
One of the main issues with acid soils is that they are toxic to plants. Soils with pH levels below 5.0 contain high levels of aluminum and manganese that are available for plant absorption and will hinder growth.
Benefits of liming your crop include reducing the availability of aluminum and manganese to the plant; increases the productivity of fertilizer use; increases the amount of phosphorus, organic nitrogen, sulfur and molybdenum that is readily available for plant absorption; builds up the activity of soil micro-organisms. Lime also supplies calcium to the soil and reduces acidity (pH). Lime can also improve the soil structure, stabilizing soil nutrients, which can help reduce soil erosion. (Publication No. 534-84)
For example, nitrogen efficiency increases by approximately 42% when the pH level is at 6.5 instead of a level 5.0. Phosphorus and potash efficiencies almost double when the pH is 6.5 compared to 5.0. (van Roestel, 2014) If you are able to increase the plants ability to absorb nutrients, you can decrease fertilizer costs because the plant is able to use larger portions of fertilizer applied. Liming can also increase the yield of a crop because the plant is better able to utilize fertilizers applied.
Increasing the efficiency of a crop's ability to uptake nutrients sounds great; however it is important to understand that using the right amount, and type, of lime is crucial. When trying to figure out how much and what type you need to use, you need to consider the following: current soil pH, size of the tillage layer, calcium and magnesium levels, fertilizer used, crop planted, and soil type/texture.
The focus for liming your field is to increase the pH so it is important to think about how the lime will be incorporated into the soil, as well as how deep the soil is being plowed under. If you plow under 20cm, it takes twice as much lime compared to a field that plows under 10cm. If you are applying lime in the fall, it is necessary to incorporate the lime into the soil because if you do not, you can lose the benefits to surface runoff. Any crop that is pH sensitive should be limed in the fall prior to planting for best results. Spring application is advantageous in areas where permanent sod is maintained, or where there are light applications vs heavy.
Lastly, it is important to consider the crop that you are growing. Blueberries and cranberries like acidic soils and therefore do not require lime. Cereals, corn and grasses can grow well in a pH between 5.5 and 6.0; however they perform better in a soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Potatoes grow well at a lower pH, such as 5.0-5.4 for potato varieties that are vulnerable to scab. If it is a scab resistant variety, it will grow well at a pH level of 6.0.
It is important to consider all factors before applying lime, especially soil texture, crop grown, and soil analysis. Our reps at Cavendish are ready and willing to help you determine the right amount and right type of lime for your crop, so be sure to take advantage of their expert advice and contact us today!