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Why Your Soil Needs Lime

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January 14, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about why your soil needs lime. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Larry Oldham, Mississipi State University Extension Service Soil Specialist.

So, Larry, our soil needs lime in order to be productive for our plants, and during the fall is a particular time when we administer lime. Why do we need lime in our soil?

Larry Oldham: Amy, when we do a soil test and we get the results back, one of the most important results on it is the lime requirement. This is a test that's done separate from the common PH. It is a test of the soil's ability to buffer the addition of liming materials, which are things that we add to the soil to increase the PH.

If you have a lime requirement, and if you have an acid soil that comes with the lime requirement, for the production of the crop or the lawn, or the garden that you wanted to raise on the ground, the recommendation is very important to get that acidity in a range where it will improve the ability of the plants to grow and produce.

The soils with a more neutral PH, and we're raising the PH up closer to seven, which is neutral with liming materials, they're going to have a better ability have the roots extend throughout the soil. There's going to be some nutrients that will be better utilized. There are going to be some bad things that are going to be kind of neutralized, they're not going to be as bad if we get the PH higher.

Amy Myers: Okay, so I know a lot of folks are probably wondering where they get lime if their soil needs it, and whether it's expensive or not. Is this expensive?

Larry Oldham: In Mississippi you can get lime at most of our retail farm outlet stores. You can get bags of it at some of the big box suppliers. It's easy to get. Where we have issues in Mississipi with the obtaining lime, is that it is rather expensive here. We do have some forms of lime which are [inaudible 00:02:17] the state. Those are Marrow pits. There's only four of them. I don't even know if all of them are operating now.

But that form of lime gots some issues with how it's used, with it's usability. So, most of the lime we use, at least commercially, it has to be imported. Calcitic dolomitic, it comes from Alabama by a truck, or it comes down a river from Tennessee, or Kentucky, or Missouri. And because of that move, lime is a very significant investment here.

Amy Myers: How long should we wait before we see a difference after we've administered, or added lime to our soil?

Larry Oldham: Well, how long we wait 'til we see a difference is one, we're talking about this in the fall of the year. These hard limes that we import, the Calcite, the dolomitic materials, they take a long time to react in this soil. And if we can get the lime applications out there this fall, they will have the best bang for our buck in terms of neutralizing soil. It's acidity, before we get to planting next years annual crops, that's when we talk about it.

Now, there's a lot of things that line up for fall applications of lime. Number one, it's a labor issue. If you talking large quantities you've probably already got it hauled to your field. I've seen some large piles of lime sitting on the edge of the fields this year. And in addition, it's usually drier in the fall. We can get the equipment out there, and get the material spread.

And again, chemically, we like for it to be exposed to the soil for a long period as we can before the plants actually do need to grow in that different, altered, chemical environment which we have after we apply the lime.

Amy Myers: Also, let me ask you about home and landscaping, and crops purposes. Is this lime requirement, does this go for both, home gardens, and crops?

Larry Oldham: Of course it does. If you utilized the Mississippi State University Soil Test and Lab, and you have a lime recommendation for those scenarios, it's going to be so many pounds per 1000 square feet. And it's very critical to see that we apply the proper rates, that's the pounds per 1000 square feet. But, it does apply for everything that we grow. It doesn't matter the scale. If it's from the bed in the backyard, to a 1600 acre field in the Mississipi Delta.

Amy Myers: Okay, that's a lot of really good information. Thank you so much.

Today we've been speaking with Larry Oldham, Soil Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Plant and Soil Sciences

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