Southern Spotlight: Amending your Soil with Aglime

James Banahan

James Banahan

With our wheat crop coming off, now is the prime time to talk about soil amendments. The current economics of corn allow us today to reconsider some expenses that we probably chose to forego in the past, soil amendments likely being one such expense.
Instead of rehashing soil amendment generalities, let’s focus on a new, fun one: Aglime. We’ve just started doing more with Aglime in the past two years and it definitely has the potential to benefit your operation. Of course, no amendment I might talk about will benefit 100% of your operations, so read on to determine if this might be right for you.
The point of liming is to amend your soil’s pH and get it into the optimal range for your crops, which is between 6.2 and 6.7. Soil with a pH in this range makes nutrients most available to your plants and allows whatever chemistry you’ve applied to work at its max efficiency.
To benefit from liming your soil will have to be in need of some amending. A soil test will provide a quick and useful answer about the pH level of your soil, where it falls, and if it’s off the mark, exactly how far off it is.
If a soil test suggests that liming might be in order, look into the economics of it and how it compares with your operational budget. One ton of Aglime costs about $40 per acre applied (which includes the cost of the product, freight, and application). While $40 per acre sounds like a big investment, when you break it down over the next three crops it equals around $13, or the cost of 3 and one third bushels of corn per year. Additionally, the benefits of lime really start to kick in the second and third years after application, so as with any soil amendment, the long view is truly where you can recognize the benefit such an investment provides to your operation.
Whenever we start talking about big investments such as Aglime, we inevitably also start shopping for the lowest price. This isn’t a bad thing, but if I’ve piqued your interest in lime, keep value in mind as you shop, and remember that quality is of the utmost importance. Any recommendations for lime via your soil sample are figured at 90% ECCE (Effective Calcium Carbonate Equivalent), which is essentially a purity grade. Most sources though produce lime in the range of 40-70% ECCE and some fall below even the lower reaches of that range. Be sure to pay attention to this number as you shop around so that you know what you’re getting and understand the true cost of your selection. If, for example, you find some bargain lime for $30 an acre applied but its ECCE is only 45%, you would have to double the rate suggested by your soil sample (which again is figured at 90% ECCE), which would make your bargain lime much less of a bargain after all.
In addition to attention to source, the aggregate size and incorporation depth can greatly affect how effective lime is at achieving its end as a soil amendment. Lime can be a little tricky, but don’t let these details scare you away from it—when properly managed, it can be a hugely beneficial soil amendment.
And speaking of proper management, participation in a VRT program is an excellent way to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck. Applying the right rate on the right acre is just as important as the quality of your source and other details. You know well that not all your soil is equal: it’s good here, bad over there, and so-so along the old fence. Participation in a VRT program will allow you to apply the lime where it’s actually needed and conserve it where it isn’t, which means that your dollars will be put to max use—no more and no less than what is necessary will be used.
I wrote last week about planning for your 2015 crop. Choosing to use soil amendments such as Aglime is planning for your crop into 2016 and 2017 as well. Making well-informed and future-oriented decisions today will set your operation up for success tomorrow and ensure that your dollars are spent wisely, with every last cent promising a return.