Neutralization at Its Finest: The Key Role of Limestone in Managing Soil Acidity

Trying to grow most conventional garden plants in acidic soil is an exercise in futility. Although there are trees, shrubs, and even annual plants that thrive in soils with high pH levels, the majority of them prefer neutral or even slightly basic soil. Thankfully, farmers, gardeners, growers, and landscapers don’t just have to resign themselves to the situation. They can use limestone to help neutralize the soil and manage acidity problems.

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What Causes Acidic Soil?

There are three main causes of soil acidity. If the environmental, climatic, or cultural limitations in the area are not just right, it can leave farmers dealing with failed crops and gardeners struggling to keep their favorite plants alive. Purchasing crushed limestone from a Limestone Supply expert will alleviate the problem. But first, farmers and growers need to know how to identify the issue.

Environmental Causes of Soil Acidity

The soil’s parent material plays a large role in determining its pH level. If the rocky subsoil is permeated by acid, the soil itself will almost always have a high pH.

Climatic Causes of Soil Acidity

High rainfall or excessive irrigation can leach nutrients and elements from the soil. As calcium, magnesium, and sodium are leached, the soil acidity increases because that increases the concentrations of hydrogen, aluminum, and manganese. This problem can be alleviated on irrigated croplands by avoiding overwatering, but if the area sees a ton of rainfall, farmers and growers will have to take additional steps to alleviate problems with soil acidity.

Cultural Practices that Cause Soil Acidity

Finally, cultural practices like nitrogen fertilization and the removal of harvested crops and agricultural waste can contribute to soil erosion. This creates a perfect environment for runoff, which removes key nutrients and minerals from the soil, leaving it more acidic.

Measuring Soil Acidity

The easiest way to measure soil acidity is to conduct a soil test. This will allow landowners to discover their soil’s exact pH levels. It will also offer information about nutrient levels. There are other ways to determine soil pH, such as observing what kinds of plants are growing naturally in the area, but they require far more time and specialized skill than simply measuring the pH with a soil test kit.

How Limestone Helps

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Limestone is a natural stone composed primarily of calcium carbonate. Dolomitic limestone also contains magnesium carbonate, which can be beneficial for soils where magnesium is depleted.

Pure limestone has a neutralizing value of 100% thanks to its high calcium carbonate levels. The purity of limestone is measured in terms of its calcium carbonate equivalence (CCE), so look for that information before buying new products, and choose finely ground limestone that has close to 90% CCE.

When to Apply Limestone Products

The best time to apply limestone is several months before planting. Most farmers take soil samples at the end of their normal growing season and then apply limestone as needed to prepare the soil for next year’s plants. Home gardeners and growers can follow the same protocol.

The Bottom Line

Crushed limestone is an all-natural and very effective way to neutralize soil acidity, making it easier to grow commercial crops, flowers, and landscape plants. Anyone who wants to cultivate his or her green thumb should invest in some high CCE finely ground limestone and use it every season as needed to compensate for environmental, climatic, and other variables.

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