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The Benefits of Liquid Calcium Supplementation for pH Adjustment, compaction, and nitrogen efficiency

TLDR:  Liquid calcium can effectively improve fertilizer efficiency, soil permeability, and reduce the need for agricultural lime applications, while allowing for rapid pH adjustments to avoid yield losses.


Soil compaction and improper pH levels are common problems in fields and pastures. Research has shown that liquid calcium chloride can be an effective solution for these issues, improving soil structure and nutrient absorption, and ultimately enhancing crop yield. This article shows how liquid calcium chloride adjusts soil pH, reduces compaction, and improves nitrogen use efficiency.


Quickly Improves pH

Liquid calcium works to adjust soil pH in the root growth zone by introducing calcium ions into the soil. These calcium ions interact with the soil in two main ways: they displace hydrogen ions, which are responsible for soil acidity, and they improve soil drainage to push toxic aluminum deeper into the soil, beyond the growing zone.


This displacement and competition process effectively reduces the soil's acidity, thus raising the pH level towards a more neutral state. This action is particularly beneficial in agricultural soils where the use of ammonium-based fertilizers is common, as it not only helps to neutralize soil acidity but also improves the absorption of fertilizers. The result is a more balanced soil environment that supports healthier plant growth by improving the structure of the soil and making nutrients more accessible to plants.


The mechanism of action of liquid calcium chloride in adjusting soil pH differs significantly from that of traditional agricultural lime (calcium carbonate). Liquid calcium chloride provides an immediate effect by immediately introducing soluble calcium ions into the soil, which quickly displace hydrogen ions, reducing soil acidity in a shorter time frame.


Agricultural lime works more slowly; it needs to dissolve in the soil water before it can release calcium ions and carbonate ions that neutralize acidity over a longer period. Essentially, calcium chloride changes the concentration and location of hydrogen ions, while lime neutralizes hydrogen ions. They both cause an effect, but the effects are different and should be used in rotation. Calcium provides immediate effects, while lime slowly builds effects over time.


Reduces Compaction


Liquid calcium also reduces chemical soil compaction. It improves soil permeability and facilitates better air and water movement through the soil. This is helps to move aluminum and hydrogen ions away from the root zone, while also improving nutrient absorption and movement through the soil.


Improves Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Research indicates that calcium application increases the rate of ammonium absorption by plants by as much as 100 percent. This improved nutrient uptake stimulates photosynthesis, leading to an increase in the plant's organic building blocks and reducing nitrogen leaching potential. Surplus nitrogen absorbed by plants is stored and available to promote growth throughout the season, instead of being lost and wasted.


Rotation with Ag Lime


Liquid calcium offers an effective, quick solution for adjusting soil pH levels, to avoid losses due to low pH within a growing season. Its fast-acting nature makes it ideal for addressing specific nutrient absorption issues and improving the efficiency of nitrogen use by plants. It can be used to adjust pH and improve nutrient use every year, but does not completely replace traditional lime.


While liquid calcium provides immediate benefits, agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) offers a slower, sustained adjustment of soil pH. Agricultural lime dissolves slowly over time to gradually neutralize acidity in the soil.


Integrating liquid calcium and agricultural lime into a soil management plan involves understanding the specific needs of the soil and crops. A strategic rotation might look like this:

  1. Initial Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive soil test to determine pH levels .

  2. Immediate Correction with Liquid Calcium: If immediate pH adjustment is needed, especially in compacted areas, apply liquid calcium. This step addresses urgent soil structure issues and enhances nutrient availability for the current year.

  3. Sustained pH Management with Agricultural Lime: In the following year, incorporate agricultural lime into the soil management plan. Agricultural lime's slow-acting nature helps to build soil health over time.

  4. Regular Monitoring and Adjustment: Continuously monitor soil pH. This might involve more frequent applications of liquid calcium in areas with high nitrogen use and periodic lime applications to maintain overall soil pH balance.

Conclusion

The combined use of liquid calcium chloride and agricultural lime offers a comprehensive approach to soil pH management, addressing both immediate needs and long-term soil health. Liquid calcium can effectively improve fertilizer efficiency, soil permeability, and reduce the need for agricultural lime, while allowing for rapid pH adjustments to avoid yield losses.


References:


Feagley, S. E., & Fenn, L. B. (1998). Using Soluble Calcium to Stimulate Plant Growth. Texas A&M University System. Retrieved from https://lubbock.tamu.edu/files/2011/10/calciumplantgrowth.pdf


Repairing Soil Compaction With Liquid Calcium Chloride. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tetratec.com/blog/repairing-soil-compaction-with-liquid-calcium-chloride/


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