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Manure, Fertilizer, Or Compost—Which is Best? It Depends.

Compost, manure, or fertilizer - norcal ag service serving all of northern and central california

Successful farmers know the value of their soil. They know that good soil means good crops, a good end of the season yield. They know bad soil has the opposite effect and they also know that they can enhance the terrain of their own farm with fertilizer, mulch, and yes compost.

Compost and manure aren’t exactly exciting but the results that they produce certainly are. However, it’s not just a matter of knowing that you need lime or fertilizer, or any other soil enhancement. The most important thing is to know how and when to use these resources on your farm. It is to this end that today’s article will be of assistance. Read on for a guide to the ins and outs of soil manure and compost!

Compost vs Manure vs Fertilizer—What’s the difference?

Now we look at the intricacies of compost manure and fertilizer.

What is Compost

Compost essentially refers to any decomposed organic matter that has been processed via composting. The materials are generally recycled everyday components including leaves, vegetation, and even table scraps. It’s praised for its high-level of nutrients.

One of the best things about compost is that it is extremely versatile. It can help offset soil erosion, balance out toxins and even serve as a natural pesticide.

At its simplest level composting requires only damp organic matter and time. You’ll occasionally see people keeping small scale compost piles in their backyard that develop over the course of months or even years.

However, on an industrial level, it is possible to take a much more deliberate approach with the composting, inputting optimal levels of carbon, nitrogen, and water into the piles to vastly improve the quality and effectiveness.

Compost usually does not act alone but will be introduced to the soil along with clay, sand or other substantive materials.

The two main downsides of composting are that it requires a large volume of materials and a constant stream of effort over extended periods of time. Any given batch of compost spent months in the making before it was ever ready to be applied.

What is manure?

Like compost manure is also a nutrient-rich soil enhancement. Commercial manure is usually the concentrated solid waste of various animals. Though not necessarily great news for those destined to interact with it the very nature of the material is a testament to its effectiveness. People aren’t using it just for the fun of it.

Manure adds critical elements to the soil such as fungi bacteria and nitrogen—all factors that help plants to thrive on a nutritional level.

The application of manure is done mostly to improve the overall fertility of the soil by making the structure capable of holding more nutrients and water.

Naturally, dung does have its consequences, however. Chief among them: odor. Herbivore manure, which is most often used in the context of farming is typically fairly mild in terms of smell thanks to the low protein diet of the animal. However, pungent fumes are nevertheless strongly associated with the use of manure.

There are also health concerns. Manure can be a gateway to mice, rats, and harmful insects when not properly stored or applied.

Manure has also been known to compromise organic food, insofar as the fact that certain vegetables (corn and lettuce to name two) may contain traces of animal antibiotics when treated with manure.

What is fertilizer?

Fertilizer is a broad term that can refer to most any soil additive made to increase fertility. Fertilizers are both naturally occurring and made synthetically and generally provide a “stimulus package” (so to speak) of essential nutrients that help a plant do well.

Fertilizer is used broadly on most crops and even in domestic flower gardens. However, the type and the extent of use will depend largely on field conditions. To determine a fertilizing strategy, it is a good idea to perform soil tests that will determine the specific needs of the land.

It can be found both in solid and liquid form and is applied in a number of different ways, some fertilizers activating immediately, others releasing slowly over time.

The main consequences of fertilizers pertain to their environmental impact. Many contain potent chemicals that tend to run off into wooded or watered areas and create long term problems. For example, high levels of nitrogen can facilitate the growth of dangerous algae on bodies of water.

Regardless, the economic impact of fertilizer is unambiguous. Fertilizer is associated with larger, healthier crop yields that actually keeps food prices lower. Virtually every farm uses some form of fertilizer be it synthetic or organic.

When to Use Compost, Manure, Fertilizer or All Three?

As you may have realized these three materials are all very similar each serving the purpose of enriching the overall quality of your soil.

Compost and manure fall more into the category of organic farming. They are good in situations where you want to enrich the soil without exposing your crops to heavy chemicals. They are also able to improve the quality of your soil.

Fertilizer is generally the opposite. Though it can also be organic it is most often synthesized and processed in a factory setting. As a result, it can actually diminish the integrity of soil. However, it is also substantially richer in nutrients which means bigger, healthier plants, and ultimately, a much larger yield. Naturally, if you are growing for high volume fertilizer will be a must.

However, it’s not as black and white as all that. For example, you could use manure to stabilize or improve soil quality while also improving the overall nutrient levels of the soil with fertilizer. In this context, organic fertilizer usually works the best.


Compost, fertilizer, manure. There is no getting around these essential resources in farming. The benefits are substantial: bigger healthier crops that keep prices of food low while producing yields that consistently keep up with the needs of earth’s growing population. Ultimately, different situations will call for the use of different resources or a combination of several different ones. In any case, the right product is out there ready to make your farm thrive.

Want To Learn More? We’d Love To Help

At Norcal Ag Service we have experience connecting our customers with the efficient soil that they need to conserve water and see their plants thrive.

Contact us today for a free quote, and some guidance that will help get you on track with the right product for your needs!

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What is Agricultural Lime and How Does It Impact Soil Health?

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Chances are that the soil in your field or garden will become acidic over time due to several factors, including decomposition of organic material and erosion. Limestone raises the pH level to a neutral range beneficial to plants, typically between 5.5 and 6.5.

If the pH is acidic and below 5.5, or if the pH is alkaline and above 6.5, this will create a nutrient deficiency in your plants. You can improve the nutritional quality of your crops by using limestone in the recommended amount.

The proper PH balance of soil is a matter of major importance when it comes to the world of agriculture. The level of PH that plants are exposed to impacts the extent to which they are able to ingest nutrients, receive water, and ultimately, grow.

Too much PH or too little and those abilities are sharply inhibited. The need itself is straightforward: those in agriculture must be mindful of their soil conditions if they are to enjoy large yields of healthy crops. Overly acidic soil can sharply inhibit the growth of your plants, having a negative impact both on overall yields, and eventual profits.

But how can you successfully restore a proper PH balance to your soil? The solution is soil additives. There are two options for this means of mitigation: agricultural lime (aglime) or gypsum.

Agricultural lime is made, as the name suggests, of crushed limestone. It has many benefits on the overall health of the soil which we will enumerate on in the paragraphs to come.

Read on for information on the relationship between aglime and plant nutrition!

What is Agricultural Lime?

The pulverized limestone that constitutes agricultural lime is an organic matter that neutralizes soil acidity.

The primary chemical element active in agricultural lime is calcium carbonate though other active elements may vary from source to source.

Similar to traditional agricultural lime there is dolomite lime. The idea behind this solution is the same—to maintain neutral acidic levels within the soil. However, there is a difference in the chemical make up of dolomite lime that separates it from ag lime.

Dolomitic limestone features the addition of magnesium carbonate. Because of this factor, dolomite is often used in areas that are particularly magnesium deficient to better serve in the rejuvenation of PH deficient soil.

Why does soil erode and deteriorate this way in the first place? It’s a natural process that occurs over time. Wind, rain, and tilling are all factors that contribute to the degradation of soil quality.

Because erosion is such a naturally occurring process, vigilance and proper mitigation efforts are necessary to ensuring consistently high-quality soil.

Impacts of Agricultural Lime on Soil

The objective of agricultural lime on soil is to raise the PH level, thereby decreasing the acid present in it. By increasing the alkaline level and mitigating acid the soil has a better chance of producing vibrant crops.

Just how significant is the impact of acid on plant growth? Greater than one might imagine. The reduction of nutrient absorption caused by acid sharply limits the extent to which a plant can grow. In fact, too much acid can even lead to unbearable toxicity levels in the soil which can be fatal to plants.

That’s not all, however. There are a number of other liming applications to keep in mind.

It provides a source of calcium and magnesium for plants

Calcium and magnesium are both naturally occurring components of agricultural lime. As a result, your plants get increased access to these chemicals when aglime is used as a soil additive.

Magnesium is a critical element of enzyme production within plants. In fact, many key enzymes that plants need for growth cannot be created without access to magnesium making it a critical resource for any crop.

Calcium, on the other hand, is critical to the growth of cell walls within plants. Why does this matter? The cell wall, among other things, will help to improve the nutrient absorption of the plant.

It permits improved water penetration for acidic soils

As soil erodes and becomes more acidic, it has the tendency to harden and effectively serve as a dried out, compacted crust.

When this process occurs, it becomes very difficult for water to penetrate past the outer layer of the soil.

This effectively means that the roots of your plants are being starved of water. The extent to which this is the case varies on a situational basis, but regardless soil that drains poorly does not serve your needs to nearly the extent as soil that drains well.

Why? Because when plants cannot access the necessary amount of water, their growth is stunted. In some cases, the plant may not even be able to survive.

With the introduction of lime, the soil behaves more efficiently allowing your plants to have easier access to water.

The improvement to the soil texture is largely the byproduct of calcium in the limestone. The calcium serves to separate the clay molecules thus making them less restrictive. The loosened structure of the soil is then able to receive water at an improved rate.

It improves the uptake of major plant nutrients

The final benefit of agricultural lime on soil is that it simply gives your plants access to more of the things they need. More carbon dioxide, more nitrogen, more phosphorus, more potassium.

Agricultural lime works particularly well in cooperation with fertilizer. In fact, liming soil is a standard element of best practice when it comes to fertilizing.

Acidic soil that has been exposed to lime will be more fertile giving your plants a natural boost in their ability to grow and thrive.   

Why You Need Limestone

Agricultural lime accomplishes a great deal. From mitigating the harmful effects of soil erosion and toxic acidity levels to assisting in critical nutrient absorption, there are few easier ways to give your crops a healthy boost.

When it comes to agricultural lime for PH control the question is not if, but which. Quality counts when it comes to the materials used to treat your plants so invest in agricultural lime that you can trust.

Any More Questions? Contact Us

At Norcal AG Services we are experts when it comes to all things agricultural. We handle a diverse range of needs with one common objective in mind each time: to give our clients and customers the exact help that they need.

Contact us today for a free quote, and assistance in choosing the right solution for your needs.

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How to Reduce Dust with Dust Palliatives

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Excessive dust is both a health and environmental concern. To the individual, prolonged exposure to dust can create asthma like symptoms. To the environment, it can corrupt the overall air quality affecting a larger number of people, plants, and animals overtime.

Yet for as big a nuisance as dust is, it’s also a ubiquitous element of life. If you’ve ever driven down a dirt road before, you’ve probably come to a quick understanding of just how pervasive dust can be.

Indeed, dust is particularly problematic on dirt roads and construction sites where raw earth is frequently being disturbed. But common though this material may be, the public and personal health concerns remain.

Excessive dust is a problem that requires mitigation. The good news is that there are many types of dust control methods using palliatives.

Dust palliatives are used to mitigate the problem of dust clouds to eliminate the impact they have on the environment.

Today we take a sweeping look at vital information pertaining to this important solution.

Types of Dust Palliatives

There are two different types of dust palliatives—moisture increasing palliatives, and particle binding palliatives.

Both approaches perform more or less as their names suggest they would.

Moisture Increasing

The moisture increasing palliative will add moisture to the soil on a dust road or construction site. As a result, the individual particles stick together better, and don’t turn into airborne dust about contact.

This is the simpler, approach that can be as basic as adding water to a site. However, due to the simplicity of the technique, it might also be more temporary.

Particle Binding

Particle binding palliatives are longer lasting, and usually more intricate. Once again, the name describes the approach, the job of a particle binding palliative is to bind dust particles together.

It’s a chemical solution that can be implemented through a wide degree of different options. For example, there are organic options available, such as resins that are generally safe to use.

Organic dust palliatives are prized for having a low impact on the environment. They are usually non-toxic while still being effective and easy to use.

There are also more chemical heavy dust control suppression systems  that will also get the job done, but do run the risk contaminating area and pose harm to plant and wildlife.

Synthetic Solutions

Synthetic palliatives also have their place, however. Synthetic palliatives may in certain cases be better suited to the particulars of a work site. For example, they may be longer lasting, water soluble, or better equipped to withstand extreme temperatures.

With either type of dust palliative, there are multiple solutions available that will ultimately cater to a wide range of users.

Using compressed air oriented misting systems, dust palliatives can be quickly applied to a road or work area with relatively low amounts of preparation, making it a quick, stress free solution to the problem of airborne dust contaminants. There are also fog systems that can be used to remove dust particles.

Selecting the right approach for a given project is a highly individualized process that will require taking into consideration the specifics of the site. However, given the range of options that are available, there are products out there suited to every circumstance.

What’s the Best Dust Palliative?

As the need for dust palliatives becomes increasingly obvious for the purposes of your dirt road or worksite, it then becomes a matter of deciding which option suits your needs.

Best case scenario, you will be able to consider a natural, organic solution to your dust particle problem. The non-toxic approach, when possible, will ensure a low environmental impact, and an all around safe work area for humans, animals, and plants.

There are lots of different organic solutions to consider. Too many, in fact, to enumerate all of them here.

That said, here are a few organic options that might be appropriate for your property.


Magnesium chloride is considered one of the easiest and most cost effective methods of dust suppression.

Essentially, this substance works to capture the moisture already in the air, and use it to bind dirt together.

Magnesium Chloride works best in cooler, damp environments. Because it works with moisture that is already in the air, it won’t be as effective in hot dry climates.


Lignin is an organic approach usually used in areas that have lots of people walking in and out. For instance, you might use lignin in the parking lot of a business.

This material is naturally found in wood and works a little like glue, binding dust particles together as a surface dries, thus preventing it from forming clouds.

Lignin is often used to great success on clay like soil.


Last, we look at tall oil pitch. This palliative is organic, water soluble, and it poses no risk to water supplies.

Tall oil pitch is actually a paper processing by-product. All natural and completely safe, T.O.P is water soluble, non-combustible, and prized for its binding properties, and perhaps especially for its ability to work well in a variety of environments.

Main Takeaways

As you consider your dirt road or construction site, the matter of dust palliatives is rather straightforward. It’s not a matter of deciding if you need it, but which one to use.

Dust palliatives are an easy, affordable solution to your dust problem, and because of the diversity of options, most people won’t have a problem finding exactly what they are looking for.

The right dust palliative will ensure your property is a healthier place to be, making it an invaluable investment.

Get In Touch With Us

When looking to solve your dust problem, it helps to have the right people in your corner. Choosing the right palliative is only half the battle. You also need a reputable professional group to apply it for you.

That is why it is a good idea to choose a company as experienced as Norcal AG for your dust mitigation needs.

Contact us for a free quote and some guidance that will help solve your dust problem.