Top Benefits of Using Lime for Agricultural Crops

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Ag lime for crops

Author/Reviewed By: Josh Miller, Sales Manager: Baker Lime & North America Minerals
Published: 9/12/2016 – Updated: 8/23/2021

Uses Of Limestone In Agriculture

Growing agricultural crops is a complex line of work that requires a tremendous amount of expertise. Traditional agricultural crop growing faces all kinds of challenges in order to properly produce yields. Appropriate environmental conditions are critical to ensuring successful crops.

Soil quality is a critical component of successful crop growing. Crop health greatly depends on the balance of pH levels within the soil. When soil becomes too acidic – or has a lower pH level – it creates a toxic environment for crops. Acidic soil causes severe nutrient deficiencies for crops, which results in lower yields. Ultimately, this eats away at an agricultural business’s profits.

Fortunately, there is a way to monitor and remedy an acidic soil situation. When soil becomes acidic, one of the best uses of limestone in agriculture is to apply lime to the acidic soil where crops are grown as a way of raising pH levels and reducing acidity.

Acidic Soil Problems

One of the most important conditions for ensuring agricultural crops will grow is the condition of the soil, including the pH balance. When soil becomes too acidic, it can make it very difficult to maximize the yield of agricultural crops.

Acidity is measured on the pH scale whereby a pH level of seven is neutral. When soil pH levels drop below seven, it develops into a state of acidity. The more acidic the soil is, the more toxic it is for plants.

It is estimated that roughly 20 percent of North American farm fields are acidic and will need roughly two tons of agricultural lime per acre in order to supplement the acidity. A study by Michigan State University reported that 25 percent of farm fields are at a pH level of below six.agricultural lime for crops

The natural acidity of soil will differ from region to region. Some soils are sandy, some are more clay-like. This depends on climate and different properties of farmland regions. Additionally, the specific farming history of the piece of land in question may also determine acidity levels. Some lands may have been properly cared for and managed, while others may have been neglected. This could possibly lead to lower pH levels and an overall acidic soil environment. Limestone can be used to correct the soil’s pH level.

What Is Agricultural Lime?

In order to counter the high acidity of the soil, certain soil amendments can be added to raise the pH levels and neutralize the acidic soil. Agricultural lime is the most effective soil amendment for raising pH levels in order to improve crop health and production.

Agricultural lime is a soil amendment product used to condition soil by raising pH levels. It is made from crushed limestone that contains natural nutrients to promote healthy plant growth. When lime is added to agricultural crops, it dissolves and releases a base that counteracts or neutralizes soil acidity.

Video – Top Benefits of Agricultural Lime

Types of Lime for Agricultural Crops

Depending on how acidic the soil has become, there are different types of lime products to use to correct the soil’s pH. Lime is available as magnesium or calcium additives. Magnesium-based lime is called dolomitic lime. Calcium-based lime is called calcitic lime. Depending on your soil’s specific deficiency, it may require one type of lime or the other. It may even require a combination of both liming materials.

Agricultural lime comes in several states: oxides, hydroxide, silicate or carbonate. These are the forms of magnesium or calcium that will neutralize pH levels in the soil. Calcium and magnesium on their own will not neutralize the pH level. Only when they are applied in these forms will they serve the purpose of lowering acidity levels.

Reducing Acidity Levels in Soil

Soil naturally contains countless minerals and nutrients that each serve a purpose in helping crops grow healthily. When the mineral content becomes unbalanced, the soil can become too alkalized or too acidic depending on the levels of the different types of minerals.

When the soil contains high levels of minerals like iron, aluminum and manganese, then a pH imbalance is created. This causes soil acidity levels to rise. Simultaneously, this also causes a deficiency in other important soil minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Without calcium and magnesium, plants cannot reach healthy growth levels.

This pH imbalance can happen for any number of reasons. The soil itself could be naturally higher in these mineral contents, or it could be caused by the types of fertilizers being used. Alternatively, soil can become acidic when the presence of beneficial bacteria found in organic matter dwindles and there isn’t enough microbial activity in the soil. Whatever the case may be, acidic soil is generally a nutrient imbalance or deficiency that prevents healthy plant growth.

When soil becomes too acidic, it makes it very difficult for plant roots to grow. In fact, acidic soil can stunt root growth altogether, which prevents plant development. Plant roots aren’t able to take up nutrients effectively, which lowers the overall health level of the crops. In essence, high acidity creates a toxic environment for crops. 

How Lime Helps Crops Grow

Agricultural lime helps lower the soil’s acidity levels by rendering it more pH neutral. By applying lime to the soil when it becomes too acidic, farmers can ensure they are helping improve their crop output. If crops can’t properly grow, they can’t produce, which impacts the agriculture business and its bottom line. This is why it becomes important to test your soil’s pH levels to determine the appropriate remedy as needed. Testing soil can help you determine where and when lime is needed, as well as the amount of lime to apply. Ag lime effect on crops

In order to remedy the problem of acidic soil, lime can be applied to crops to raise the pH levels by adding in calcium and magnesium. Lime acts as a natural acid neutralizer for soil, which helps to reduce acidity and assist in returning the soil to a pH neutral status.

When soil is acidic, lime can help raise the pH levels, which improves many aspects of crop health. Agricultural lime comes in several forms that can neutralize the acidity in the soil. Lime is derived from magnesium or calcium carbonates, oxides, hydroxides or silicates. These substances help to neutralize the acidity in the soil and provide a thriving soil environment for crops to grow properly in your field or garden.

How Crops React to Lime

Different types of plants are more resistant to acidic soil than others. Certain types of plants can withstand the toxicity of acidic soil, while others will be much more susceptible and will not be able to withstand the toxicity. It’s important to understand each crop’s specific acidic tolerance before applying a lime solution.

When the right type of agricultural lime is appropriately applied to acidic soil, the crops that were once facing toxic conditions will begin to benefit from the change in pH levels. Plant roots will benefit from the calcium and/or magnesium supplementation. Roots will become more efficient at nutrient uptake. This will strengthen the overall root system and plant structure over time.

Agricultural lime products used on acidic soil have a natural varying size of particles. The plant roots can immediately absorb the smaller particles, as they are tiny enough for the roots to take up. The larger particle sizes remain in the soil and continue to neutralize the soil’s acidity. The larger particles slowly break down over time into smaller particles. This helps to deliver a continuous supply of calcium and/or magnesium to the crops over a typical two to five-year period.

These improvements then go on to increase the crop’s ability to produce, which leads to greater yields and thus more profit for the farmer. Crops such as small grains, corn, Bermuda grass, soybeans and other legumes can greatly benefit from agricultural lime to improve yields.

Applying Lime to Agricultural Crops

Once the soil has been tested throughout the field, you can then determine the appropriate amount of lime to use. Certain sections of the soil may be more acidic than others. In this case, a suitable lime application plan must be created in order to avoid over- or undersupplying lime across the field.

Certain crop species may also have different lime amount requirements. Some crops may need only a slight decrease in acidity, whereas some would benefit from a much greater effort in balancing pH levels.

In many cases, agricultural lime should be applied to the acidic areas of the soil at least six months prior to planting the next crop however the timing may be sooner or later depending on the agricultural lime’s particle sizing. Smaller particles with greater surface area tend to provide liming value and affect the pH more quickly than large particles do. If the application should be applied at least six months prior to planting this means that lime should be applied after harvest in the late fall or winter months. By waiting six months after you apply limestone, it gives the soil a sufficient amount of time to adjust to the added nutrients and balance out the pH levels.

When applying lime to agricultural crops, it’s important to work it into the soil as much as possible. If lime simply resides on the surface, it will take much longer for it to dissolve and then condition the soil. However, this may not apply to crops with roots that feed close to the surface, such as alfalfa, or if a no-till practice is being followed. If you are going to apply lime to your crops, it’s best to use crop-specific lime application practices.

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Benefits of Lime for Soil 

There are several benefits of using lime for soil on certain crops as needed. These benefits ultimately lead to an improved yield in agricultural crops.applying lime to crops

Here are the top benefits and uses of limestone in agriculture:

  • Reduces Levels of Manganese and Iron

By applying agricultural lime to crops, you can help to increase the soil’s pH level by neutralizing and reducing the levels of manganese and iron that cause soil to become acidic. Lower manganese and iron levels can help to reduce the risk of plants becoming toxic, which helps increase their growth and output rates.

  • Boosts Microbial Activity 

When soil is too acidic, the beneficial microbes in the soil aren’t able to thrive. This reduces soil health and the possibility of nutrient uptake in the crop’s roots. The agricultural lime effect on crops allows it to create a better environment to promote microbial activity to improve healthy crop growth.

  • Improves Plant Structure

With a balanced pH level in the soil, the crop, especially young plants, can grow stronger overall. This additional strength starts in the roots and works its way up through the complete plant structure. Improved plant structure ensures the crops are healthier and able to yield more.

  • Provides Calcium and Magnesium

Agricultural lime actively supplements calcium and/or magnesium levels in the soil. These are essential nutrients to ensuring healthy plant growth. Agricultural lime provides a steady supply of the nutrients, which over time ensures the soil is conditioned appropriately for optimum output.

  • Provides a Return on Investment

When it comes to financial benefits, agricultural lime for crops is worth the investment. Agricultural lime is a long-term solution for ensuring maximum crop output. A single application of agricultural lime can last up to several years. During these years, your crops will produce better yields, which translates to more product and/or better product to sell – a great return on investment.

  • Increases Nutrient Uptake in Roots

Once the ag lime for crops is applied, it will begin to balance out the soil’s pH levels. A neutral or neutralized soil provides a healthy environment for plants to improve their nutrient uptake. When grown in acidic soil, plants struggle to take up nutrients. Once the soil becomes less acidic, the roots look for more nutrients to absorb.

  • Strengthens Root System

As roots take up a greater volume of nutrients, they begin to thrive and strengthen throughout the whole root system. Having a strong root system in your crops is essential for the crop’s ability to withstand environmental challenges such as rain, wind or drought.

  • Improves Nitrogen Fixation in Legumes

For legume crops like soybeans, agricultural lime can help improve nitrogen fixation. This is the process by which bacteria that live within the legume roots are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into nutrients which crops can use.

  • Improves Fertilizer/Herbicide Efficiency

When the soil becomes too acidic, it prevents herbicides from functioning properly. Acidic soil can also decrease fertilizer efficiency.  By restoring soil to a more neutral pH level, it can help improve the efficiency of fertilizers and herbicides, which further improves your bottom line.

  • Reduces Toxicity Levels

Ultimately, applying lime to agricultural crops will eliminate the state of toxicity that the plants are experiencing. Acidic soil is toxic for plants. Over time, acidic soil will kill crops. By neutralizing soil acidity while simultaneously providing adequate nutrition, you can move your crops from a toxic state to a thriving state.

Investing in Future Crop Production

While agricultural lime may seem at times like an expensive initial investment, the cost of the potential yield loss due to acidic soil conditions is far more costly than applying agricultural lime. Over time, agricultural lime can drastically improve soil conditions, leading to greater yields and greater profits.Applying agricultural lime to crops

Agricultural lime is a valuable investment that will see a return over time. It is important to get in the habit of applying lime to crops as needed in order to keep the pH levels stabilized. Otherwise, not having lime applied to crops when needed can perpetuate acidic conditions and reduce crop output. Agricultural lime should be an important consideration in any nutrient management plan.

If your soil is currently facing high levels of acidity, it’s important to invest in agricultural lime application today. Find and contact your local Baker Lime dealer to request agricultural lime products for your crops.

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