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What does Sulfur do for Crops?

Properly balanced PH levels can mean the difference between large yields, and crop failure. Overly acidic soil produces smaller crops that simply don’t satisfy the needs of a working farm. Similarly, when soil is not acidic enough, crops may be unable to absorb critical nutrients 

That is where soil amendments come into play. Sulfur is a particularly useful amendment that works best in conditions that are high in sodium or calcium. 

Sulfur can activate calcium that is naturally present in the soil to make it more soluble, and therefore better suited to the needs of your crops. 

As sulfur activates in the soil, it may raise the acidity leading to better nutrient absorption. In this article, we will take a look at everything you need to know about sulfur as a soil amendment.

What is Sulfur and Where Does it Come From?

Sulfur in its chemical form is a solid crystalline material that is yellow in appearance. As storms weather away rock material, sulfur naturally makes its way into the environment. At this point, it can come into contact with soil naturally in one of three different ways.

  • Airborne:  When water and other natural chemicals break down sulfur, some of the particles are naturally introduced to oxygen, at which point they become sulfate. The sulfate is then cycled around into plants, animals, and yes, soil. 
  • Weathering of minerals in soil: Soil also already contains minerals that are rich in sulfur. As these minerals erode thanks to rain and other weather conditions, it naturally contributes sulfur to the soil. 
  • Microbial Activity: Finally, sulfur can also come into contact with soil through natural microbial activity. As sulfate particles settle onto vegetation, they are eaten and digested by animals. The sulfate then passes through the animal waste and is incorporated into the soil. 

However, despite the fact that sulfur can come into contact with soil naturally, it is equally common that soil be deficient in sulfur. What’s more, previously nutrient-rich soil can become deficient thanks to a variety of different environmental factors. 

You can tell that soil is deficient in sulfur when the leaves are light green or yellowish. Sulfur deficiency may also be to blame when the expected growth rate of a plant has been severely stunted. 

When these symptoms appear, supplementary sulfur may be necessary. 

What is the Impact of Low pH on Crops?

Generally speaking, crops need a soil PH rating of somewhere between 5-8.5 in order to thrive. When the PH level gets higher or lower, it can severely impact the health of the plants. 

When soil does not have high enough levels of acid there are several severe naturally occurring side effects that can compromise the health of your plants. One such side effect is the release of aluminum particles that may be present in your soil. 

An abundance of aluminum in soil can actually be toxic for plants, leading to browning, stunted growth, and even death. 

Depending on the level of the imbalance, the actual results may vary. Regardless, when the PH level is off, you are not likely to get the best possible results. Some plants may die, and those that don’t are likely to be stunted in their growth. 

While the side effects of unbalanced soil PH levels can be very severe, mitigation is fairly straightforward. First things first, you need to confirm the problem. A simple soil test can give you a precise read of what PH levels you are dealing with.

Once the problem has been identified, you can then mitigate by carefully selecting a soil amendment that will bring you back to a more balanced position.

Which is better—AG Limestone or Sulfur? Or Both?

There are a variety of different soil amendments that can alter PH levels. Agricultural limestone is prized for its ability to lower acid levels, while sulfur is used to raise them. 

Which is better? That’s not really the right question. It’s really a matter of which option will be right for your situation. 

If the acid in your soil is excessively high, you will want to use agricultural limestone. When the acid is not high enough, you will want to use sulfur. 

Have a Question?

When it comes to optimizing your soil, it helps to work with professionals. At Norcal AG Service, we know what we are doing. Contact us today for a free quote, and some guidance on finding the solution that is right for you.

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What is Gypsum and How Does It Impact Crop Growth?

gypsum and plant growth - norcal ag service

Gypsum and lime have been used for ages to improve soil and balance PH levels (in the case of lime) to get the land in optimal condition for growing crops.

The benefits of lime and gypsum are nothing new but what we know about them, and particularly gypsum, has increased in recent history—the Midwest Symposium on soil Improvement having recently highlighted a report on its many benefits.

A soft sulfate that, at a glance, looks like an average mineral, the common nature of gypsum is deceptive. For the farmer who wants healthy soil that will produce healthy crops, there is no getting around the need for a thorough understanding of both of these soil critical soil amendments.

Below, we highlight the benefit that both materials can have for your crops. Additionally, we also go over when to use one over the other, or even when it is time to use both.

What is Gypsum and How is it Different from Agricultural Limestone?

Gypsum is thought to be the original natural fertilizer. Composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, it is naturally occurring all around North America.

As a fertilizer, gypsum has deep ties to the history of American agriculture, with early uses going back to nearly the country’s initial days as a nation.

For over two hundred and fifty years, farmers have understood the ability of gypsum to enrich soil and allow it to more readily absorb water and nutrients.

Agricultural lime is also prized for its effectiveness as a soil amendment but features a critical difference. Rather than enriching the soil the way that gypsum does, it balances it, by reducing soil acidity and balancing out PH levels.

The eventual impact of agricultural lime is similar to that of gypsum, insofar as the fact that balanced soil is also better at absorbing nutrients and water. Otherwise, lime is aesthetically and physically similar to gypsum and is also the byproduct of a naturally occurring mineral.

Both materials are used broadly in farming and can be utilized cooperatively, or independently depending on the needs of the land.

Impacts of Gypsum on Soil and Plant Growth

There are a number of major benefits that are associated with agricultural gypsum as it pertains to soil quality and plant growth.

1. It’s a Major Source of Calcium and Sulfur

One of the primary benefits of agricultural gypsum is that it serves as a major source of calcium and sulfur—both factors that help the soil to better absorb nutrients and water.

This is of particular importance as studies are currently indicating that soil is more sulfur deficient now than it has been in recent history.

Sulfur is a soil feature that is of particular importance as it helps plants to build up their protein levels and other critical amino acids.

2. It Reduces Soil Toxicity

Gypsum is also very handy in treating soil toxicity levels—particularly aluminum toxicity, a problem that occurs when soil acidity gets too high. Though gypsum does not balance out PH levels in the same way that agricultural lime does, it can compensate for the negative impacts that too much acid can have on the soil.

3. It’s Good for the Soil

Gypsum also improves the overall quality of the soil structure. The introduction of gypsum into soil makes it more porous and receptive to water so that it be better able to accept nutrients and hydration.

To this end, it is also a powerful asset in waterlogged conditions, allowing even supersaturated soils to drain better.

4. It Can Have a Positive Environmental Impact

The water runoff in agricultural regions has long been thought to be an environmental concern, with intrusive nutrients causing problems for natural environments when they leave the farm.

Gypsum, to some extent, is able to mitigate this problem by reducing both runoff, and soil erosion. It’s thought of as a preventative measure. An easy way to curb the risk of soluble P loss.

How Magnesium and Calcium Impact Plants

Calcium is critical to the plant on a micro level giving the organism the material it requires to build stable, healthy cell walls.

PH level is a big factor in the amount of calcium that is present in soil. When the pH levels become unfavorable, soil can become calcium deficient, sharply inhibiting its ability to support plant life.

Magnesium behaves similarly. Magnesium is essential to a plant’s ability to manage photosynthesis. A magnesium deficient plant simply isn’t going to grow the way that you want it to.

When to Use Ag Lime or Gypsum or Both?

You can actually use AG lime and gypsum together when the situation calls for it. If you need to reduce the level of acid in your soil and balance out the PH levels, then Ag lime is something that you just can’t get around.

Gypsum, on the other hand, behaves more like a fertilizer. You can use it any time you need to fortify the soil on your farm so as to be better equipped to absorb nutrients and hydration. It will be particularly handy when you are dealing with magnesium or calcium deficiency soil.

They work independently or together, though soil analysis is the very best way to determine what type of combination will be right for your land.


For balanced, vibrant soil, there is no beating gypsum and AG lime. The versatility and proven effectiveness that spans centuries effectively prove the utility of these resources.

For most, it’s not a matter of if you need gypsum or agricultural lime, it’s how to use them in a way that best suits the needs of your soil. Hopefully the guide before you today will point you in the right direction as you look to improve the quality of your soil, and consequently, your crops.

Contact Us:

Both gypsum and AG lime are integral to the success of any farm. If you want your crops to do as well as humanely possible, it helps a lot to have the right resources at your disposal. At Norcal AG Services, connecting professionals with resources for their farm is what we do best. To get a free quote, contact us today, so we can talk over a customized solution that will be right for your property.

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Protect Your Grapes: How Minimizing Dust Can Impact Yield

Vineyard Biosoils Supplier - Norcal Ag Services - Serving all of Northern and Central California

Dust is a real problem both for the environment at large and for people breathing it in. The impact that dust can have on air-quality is self-apparent. One of the harder things to quantify or conceptualize, however, is how dust can impact crop yield.

Your vineyard can’t use words to tell you it’s suffering from dust exposure, but it can show you with its results.

Fields of any nature that are being exposed to too much dust suffer the consequences. Smaller yields, more weeds, lower-quality crops.

Less crops means lower profits, less product, and long-term negative effects on the health of a business. Today we examine the impact dust has on your crops, and how the problem can be effectively controlled.

Impacts of Dust on Vineyards

So, why does dust have a negative impact on crop yields? There are actually several factors that are subject to  be increased or lessened by the extent of the dust problem. For example, in cases of extreme dust exposure, there can be an impact on photosynthesis.

As the mites settle on the plants and leaves their ability to absorb rays from the sun lessens, and they become deprived of essential nutrients.

Granted, it is difficult to quantify the precise result of dust on crops as it pertains to this matter. Photosynthesis, in general, is difficult to analyze, and the challenge is further increased because of all of the potential variables at work.

Regardless though, a correlation between dust exposure and lower levels of photosynthesis absorption has been positively identified.

Dust mites also just have a negative impact on the health of the plants overall. In addition to preventing photosynthesis absorption, it can also affect the plant’s ability to breath which subsequently limits growth potential.

Unfortunately, though, while your crops suffer, the weeds thrive. Weed mitigation strategies are hampered by excessive dust, thus further exacerbating the problem of delayed or stunted growth. In many ways, excessive dust is the perfect storm of negative factors when it comes to agriculture.

To make things even worse, dust penetration in farming actually seems to be on the rise, particularly in the case of locations that are in close proximity to construction sites, mines, dirt roads, etc.

However, all hope is not lost. Dust mitigation strategies can reverse the problem, and give your plants the extra help they need to thrive.

Control Dust Mitigation Techniques

There are a number of different ways to reduce the level of dust that interacts with your crops. In order to maximize the efficiency of your strategy, you will probably need to use several or all of these methods.

Reduce Traffic

One of the best ways to solve a dust problem is to reduce traffic on field adjacent roads. As cars speed down highways lots of dust is kicked up from the asphalt creating clouds that subsequently settle on your crops.

Naturally, the more cars on the road, the worse the problem gets. Unfortunately, traffic reduction isn’t always possible, though it is effective when implemented, and does provide an immediate solution to the problem.

Unpaved areas, in particular, should be treated with special caution. On construction sites or dirt roads, allow for traffic only as needed and eliminate it altogether whenever possible.

Reduce Speed

When untreated or exposed surfaces must be traveled on, it can help to keep the speeds as low as possible. For example, decreasing speed by just ten miles per hour from forty-five to thirty-five MPH can reduce dust transplanting by up to 22% which will have a positive impact both on agricultural and public health.

Moisture-Increasing Palliatives

Palliatives are solutions that sharply reduce the extent to which dust is disturbed on a road.

There are lots of different options available that will depend in part on the nature and condition of the road. Magnesium Chloride is a popular all-purpose option. Lignin blend and Lignosulfonate are also popular and effective organic methods.

Particle-Binding Palliatives

There are also particle binding palliatives that keep dust tightly sealed together to keep it from clouding. There are both organic and synthetic options for this as well.

The option you ultimately choose will depend in part on the conditions of the road. For example, some options are better at handling rain or extreme heat/cold than others. Similarly, others are safe to use near water supplies. In general, organic options have a low impact on the environment, but sometimes synthetic solutions are required.

In any case, thoughtful use of palliatives is an effective means of keeping dust down in sensitive areas that see a lot of traffic.

Reduce Wind

Wind can also consistently kick up dust and create problems for air quality. While you can’t control mother nature, you can reduce its impact to a certain extent. Wind walls are a good mitigation strategy that will reduce exposure and prevent an uptick in dust.

Using several of these strategies in cooperation with each other, you should be able to reduce dust exposure to your crops, and create a safer environment for your community at large.


Controlling dust requires a targeted effort. Unfortunately, there is no method that will completely keep this natural force at bay. However, the steps that we have illustrated above will sharply reduce the negative impacts of dust.

Smaller crop yields, more weeds, less grapes are all prominent consequences of dust, but with due diligence you can keep these factors at bay.

You don’t want to handle your dust mitigation services all by yourself. True efficiency requires quality palliatives and the assistance of well-informed professionals .

That is where we come into the mix. Contact us today for a free quote so we can start helping you tackle your dust problem.