When Should I Apply Lime?
With all the buzz about sustainable agriculture these days, along with fertilizer prices being exponentially higher than it was 12-18 months ago, many producers are inquiring about ag lime - specifically knowing when and how much to apply. Here are some tips we have to help you determine when you should be scheduling lime applications to your fields.
You obviously can’t drive by a field and stick your finger out the window to determine pH, so how do you do it? Soil sampling.
Soil pH is the foundation for the things you can control in crop production. Widespread data generally shows that the optimal range for that pH is 6-7 for most crops produced in our area. This helps keep nutrients available and in balance and even helps herbicides and residual chemicals be more effective. This is important because when things are as dry as they are now, you need all aspects of your ecosystem to function at max efficiency to remain profitable.
We recommend most of our customers take a look at 2.5-acre grids for sample sizes. This gives you a robust data set that’s economically priced. However, we have other solutions that can fit your needs. Whether it’s getting down to a 1-acre grid, up to a 10-acre grid, or even zone sampling; we can create a plan that works for your operation. Our friends and partners at Heartland Soil Services use the slogan, “Unless you test, it’s just a guess.” We couldn’t agree more.
Plan In Advance
The thing we always stress to producers is there are a lot of moving pieces, and they all take time. We always encourage producers to save their harvest data as it can be a great asset and part of your data set. You’ll need to make sure prior to harvest that the equipment on your combines is functioning properly and also that you have a plan to help manage that data. Your equipment dealer can help with the first part of that and we at Triple Threat Ag can help with the data management aspect.
The next step is pulling the soil samples after harvest. After the crew is able to get out and pull those soil samples, it usually takes a couple of weeks for the lab to return the results and get the data analyzed. There can be a little back and forth as we work with you to tweak prescriptions and help you work within your budget. Next, there is the question of product availability and freight to get ag lime sitting on the side of the field. We know, all that and we haven’t applied a single pound of product yet!
Once the lime is on-site, we feel as if the process speeds up. We work extremely hard to be timely and efficient in working around all the challenges that the weather seems to present. This is when all the hard work starts to pay off, though. Once the lime is applied, mother nature takes over with a chemical reaction that raises your pH to that optimal level.
Weather & Other Variables
Speaking of weather, it plays a huge factor in all of this. Fields have to be dry enough to apply and the wind is always a challenge. However, once the application is complete, we want some moisture to help facilitate that chemical reaction we talked about. If it’s too dry, the chemical reaction takes longer (or won’t happen at all). Additionally, even in the best conditions, it takes time for that reaction to take place. This fits into our previous point of planning ahead.
We encourage producers who till their ground to lightly incorporate the lime after it’s applied. This can be done with a field cultivator or a vertical-till implement. This helps ensure lime stays in place and isn’t subject to wind and water erosion – particularly if there’s not much residue on the soil surface. For the producers who no-till, there’s usually enough residue to minimize erosion and the natural biological processes take care of the incorporation. Keep in mind though, that in a no-till situation you might only change the soil pH in the top 2-3 inches of the soil profile. We haven’t seen any problems with this, though.
The bottom line is that we work with a wide array of producers with different goals and we always strive to do what works best for your operation. Even if you’re just considering doing something to better the health of your fields, but don’t know the timing or have all the answers, please reach out to us, as thrive off of helping our customers!
Triple Threat exists to ensure the health of your fields and the sustainability of your operation is possible. To learn more about soil sampling, lime application, and booking your fields, call us today (620) 456-2839.