I just ordered 200 ton of agricultural lime for our new farm. The soil test calls for 1 to 2 tons of calcium, so I am putting 2 tons on all of it.
I use the old-fashioned ammonium acetate extraction from Midwest Laboratories or A&L Analytical Labs that costs $12 instead of $6 for the Mehlich III soil test N, which is the standard in the industry now. The Mehlich doesn’t call for lime, but the ammonium acetate extraction calls for 1,800 to 3,000 pounds per acre on the same sampled soil.
How can that be? The fudge factors used in the Mehlich III test are not accurate enough for CEC and pH, which calculates how much lime my soil needs. It’s close, but not quite close enough for me. My tissue tests came back “sufficient” to “low” on calcium and “sufficient” to “high” on magnesium. That’s why I am applying 2 ton of high-calcium lime on this farm. Lord knows when or if I will ever have time like this to get in there and apply the lime.
In my 47 years of farming, my learned rule of thumb is a ton of high-calcium lime on my soils every 3 years and I don’t know of one farmer who gets that done. That would mean 2 tons every 6 years. Most farms around here haven’t seen a lime truck in 10 years and many are 20 years or longer! We don’t apply lime like we do fertilizer, so we are losing some of those expensive fertilizer dollars!
This could vary from a half ton in Iowa to over 2 tons in Virginia! How do you know if you don’t sample and use the correct soil test?
When I get my soil to around 70% base saturation on the ammonium acetate extraction, the soil works easier and feels loamier to the touch. Fields with 30% magnesium around here, and there are many, feel like a brick many days. I have rarely ever had to replant and I think that is because of my higher calcium ratings, really good seed and seed treatments and that Martin-style no-till drill and planter that gently tucks the seed to the desired depth with good loamy soil on top of it.
The base saturation test is not over 60% calcium anywhere on the farm and some is 50%. The magnesium levels are all above 20% to 25%, so I want high-calcium ag lime. I found a source 30 miles away that is 31% calcium and 1% magnesium, so it is what we call high-cal lime. Funny thing, it isn’t far from the farm we were raised on near Sardinia, Ohio, and it costs some money to truck it up here, but Hanson closed the good Highland Quarry so it’s Eagle or waste lime like my neighbor put on a field next door a couple of years ago.
We applied 2 tons on a rundown farm south of here and it raised the best soybeans ever in its history. It usually made around 45 bushels, but this year it made 65! The plants were healthier, the fertilizer dollar was not wasted and the weeds were controlled easier getting the calcium and pH up on that old farm.
I hope we can do that on the new farm, too, and next April if it gets nice and dry like it did the last 2 years, we will go in there and drill the best soybean variety we can find, treat it with a good chemical treatment and inoculate it with the new RO9 or new strain of rhizobia and SabrEx, the latest trichaderma on the market. If we can control the weeds, we should raise 50 bushels of soybeans easily in a bad year and hopefully a whole lot more.
Then next fall, we will plant it back to wheat and keep it covered all winter so those hills don’t wash and plant it back to double-crop soybeans right behind the wheat-harvesting combine. In 2012, it should raise a good crop of corn or beans and I would like to go back to corn again as I know I can raise 200 bushels per acre on that farm.
Ag lime is the best thing a farmer can do if his soil test calls for it and this one does.
We have an unusual dry fall so it’s time to get this done. I have seen more lime piles or remains of them across my 35-mile hike between the western and eastern farm than I can remember.
Liming really pays if your soil needs it. Test it right now and find out. I probably could use a ton of high-calcium lime on every acre I farm! My pH’s are “OK,” but I am short on calcium on every acre I farm.
All the best to you this fall.