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What is Gypsum and How Does It Impact Crop Growth?

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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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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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Water Conservation Tips For Farmers

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There are many reasons why water conservation matters. Ecological responsibility is certainly one of these factors. Communities such as the state of California that are often ravaged by drought have no choice but to be mindful of the way in which they water their crops.

There are also financial and time restrictive reasons why it makes sense to save water. However, doing this is often easier said than done.

If you’re one of the many people who know they need to conserve water in their agricultural practices but are unsure how to do it then we may have the solution for you.

Today we examine seven different tips on how to save water:

  • Drip Irrigation,
  • Capturing and Storing Water,
  • Irrigation Scheduling,
  • Drought-Tolerant Crops,
  • Compost and Mulch,
  • Low-Energy Spray Irrigation
  • Water Efficiency Using Bioretention

That in mind, read on to learn how to conserve money in your agricultural practices.

Why Does Water Conservation Matter?

One of the simplest reasons to conserve water is the fact that there is less of it than many people think. Despite the fact that nearly three-fourths of the planet is water, a critically small portion of it can be used for drinking or the raising of crops.

Only three percent of our water is fresh, and of that percentage, an even smaller fraction is readily accessible.

Mindful water consumption is conducive to being a good citizen. It helps reduce the risk of drought (which is especially important in communities that are at risk for drought in the first place).

Less water also means less stress on the environment in general. Water processing requires energy which subsequently takes a toll on the air quality.

If you want to save money on your water bills and be a better global citizen, here are seven ways to make it happen.

Water Conservation Tips

Here are seven water-saving practices that have been proven to work.  

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the roots of a plant, thus eliminating much of the waste associated with your average sprinkler system.

There is certainly a significant cost associated with investing in a drip irrigation system. However, it will pay for itself over time. Farmers have been able to save up to eighty percent on their watering annually, making this an extremely effective means of conservation.

In addition to increasing water use efficiency, it may also improve the rate of plant growth thanks to the overall improved efficiency of the system.

Capturing and Storing Water

There is also the option of capturing and storing fresh water. Through this process, natural rainwater is stored in reservoirs such as human-built ponds for later use.

This method of conservation is both affordable and restorative, in so far as the fact that the water reservoirs can double as a habitat for wildlife in some cases.

Irrigation Scheduling

Timing is everything when it comes to watering your crops. An understanding of the natural elements at work that impact your crop’s health is critical when it comes to avoiding under or overwatering.

To know when to water it’s important to monitor forecasts and pay attention to levels of soil moisture. Adjusting your irrigation schedule on the basis of natural forces doesn’t just save water, but it also ensures that your plants getting exactly what they need.

Drought-Tolerant Crops

Growing climate-appropriate crops is one of the most fundamental ways to conserve water. If you live in a region that is prone to drought, then growing crops resilient to that set of circumstances is a good idea.

Growing plants native to your region is one way to ensure they will do well in whatever common weather situations they are put up against.

Compost and Mulch

Mulch and compost are both resources that make your watering more efficient. Compost is able to help soil better absorb water, while mulch aids in the conservation of moisture.

In short, the more efficient your watering strategy, the less water you will need to use to keep your crops healthy.

Low-Energy Spray Irrigation

Low energy spray irrigation has much in common with traditional sprinkler systems. The operating function is essentially the same: to water via direct contact with the plant.

There are two principal differences between a low-energy spray system, and the conventional sprinkler: intensity and proximity.

Low-energy spray systems spray very gently onto the crops which sharply decreases water use as a result.

The low-intensity is compensated for by the closeness of the spray nozzle to the plant. Simply by keeping the spray system closer to the ground, more than 90% of the water is used by the plant.

Bioretention (Water efficiency)

Last but not least, bioretention. Bioretention soil is water efficient which means that it absorbs and stores moisture better than many traditionally used materials.

Bioretention practices make good use of natural water while also functioning as a filter against environmental risks. Bioretention soil, for example, naturally filters against pollutants.  


Water conservation isn’t a trendy string of buzzwords, it’s a practice critical to the overall health of your crops and your community.

Some of the means of saving water are simple. Monitoring the weather and paying attention to your soil quality can do much of the leg work for you.

Other means of conservation, such as investing in a new irrigation system are more labor intensive, but ultimately well worth the time and money that goes into them.

The good news is that you don’t have to enter into this process alone. Professional help can make conserving water much simpler.

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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Low Impact Development (LID) Principals and Stormwater Management


Stormwater runoff is a continual and growing concern that pertains to both environmental and public health interests.

Due to the penetrating nature of the problem public advocacy and official legislation have had to work in harmony to create an effective mitigation campaign.

One such governing standard is illustrated in the Clean Water Act. Established in 1972, this law illustrates in clear and sweeping terms the standards for tolerable pollutant levels, as well as overall water quality.

There is, in fact, a range of mitigation methods at work ,but among them, Low Impact Development (or LID) practices are regarded as an effective means of handling the problem.

As the name suggests, LID is a developmental plan that emphasizes low impact design infrastructure to protect against stormwater runoff.

There is a variety of ways in which this can be orchestrated. Today we look at several LID principles that are having a real impact on stormwater runoff.

Designing for Low-Impact Development

The idea behind LID is to create a sustainable green infrastructure for handling environmental concerns. As a result, the design elements at work are always made to be effective but also inconsequential in terms of environmental impact.

When working at its best, a Low-Impact Development design is made to serve as an organic water filter of sorts, taking in toxic water, and turning it into something that is of natural benefit to wildlife and humans alike.

In fact, to the naked eye, most LID designs are indistinguishable from ordinary landscaping features.

There are several basic processes that go into a LID design. They are as follows: pretreatment, filtration, infiltration, and storage and reuse.


The pretreatment element of the process involves preparing the site and getting ready for the project at large.

Different environments require different LID solutions. For example, a city cape environment might utilize a larger mitigation feature, such as a bioretention swale.

Similarly smaller environments might require a basin or rain garden.

Other factors, such as the nature of the site can also have an impact. For instance, gas stations, or other areas with deeply contaminated water supplies may require special accommodations or media resources.


The filtration is a core element of the LID process. During this phase of interaction with the runoff, water is filtered through low-impact landscaping features that naturally treat and clean it.

There are a variety of ways in which this end goal is attained, sand, swales, basins to name a few. But one common element of every approach is bioretention soil.

This ingredients used in the process include a special mix of sand and clay that is able to both extract impurities and allow foliage to grow.

Storage And Reuse

When the water has been filtered and naturally treated, it is then stored within the LID feature, and redistributed for practical use such as fostering natural plant growth.

Remember that one of the key principles of LID is that water is a valuable resource, and this is the part of the design process that really embodies that idea.

Though simple in terms of appearance, these features are highly effective at tasks big and small and have been successfully used to remove heavy metal from urban areas, making them proven means of solving major environmental concerns.

Five principles of low-impact development

There are five basic principles involved in low-impact development that help to keep environmental consequences as low as possible. They are as follows.

  1. Conserve Natural Areas Wherever Possible: The main idea is always to keep things natural. For example, if you don’t need to pave every inch of a given space, you shouldn’t.
  2. Minimize the Developmental Impact on Hydrology: Hydrology is, ostensibly anything pertaining to the natural flow of water. While the idea of LID is to treat stormwater runoff, it’s also to have as small an impact on the environment as possible. This means minimizing the developmental impact on hydrology.
  3. Maintain Runoff Rate and Duration from the Site: This means keeping water within the site so as not to serve as a widespread contaminant.
  4. Scatter Integrated Management Practices (IMPs) Throughout Your Site: Integrated management practices capture, store and keep runoff as close to the initial source as possible.
  5. Implement Pollution Prevention, Proper Maintenance and Public Education Programs: While natural designs can mitigate contaminate problems, education is what might ultimately solve them.

Informing the community of how stormwater runoff impacts them, and what they can do about it is the best way to prevent problems down the road.

The State Water Board partnership in the state of California is a good example of an educational initiative. Partnering with universities and other government and public entities to spread information, this effort has proven effective in spreading technical information and tools to help address complicated environmental problems.

Benefits of LID

LID practices are widely appreciated for their benefits. One of the major pros of LID design systems is that they have a low impact on wildlife.

As illustrated above, one of the main ideas of a low impact design is to disrupt as little as possible. Done right, LID projects mean less unnecessary unnatural surfaces and more of nature at its finest. Rain gardens (part of bioretention strategies everywhere) take the problem of rainwater runoff and create a beautiful solution.

This was seen to great effect at the University of Maryland, where rain gardens were used to handle runoff from a half-acre parking lot.

A study published by Dr. Allen Davis from the University illustrates the positive impact that the gardens had over the course of an extended rainy season. The study found an overall reduction in pollutants in the rain events that were documented.


Any LID / bioretention strategy relies heavily on high-quality media. The effectiveness of bioretention soil will ultimately be the difference between success and failure, which is exactly why we take pride in our product.

Contact us for a free quote so that you can do your project the right way.

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Protect Your Grapes: How Minimizing Dust Can Impact Yield

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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.  

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How to Reduce Dust with Dust Palliatives

dust control-with-Palliatives | norcal ag service

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.

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What is Bioretention?

what-is-bioretention-soil | norcal ag service

Unchecked, stormwater runoff can be a dangerous contaminate that does more harm than good. But, since we are just talking about water here, the potential for useful repurposing is also enormous.

As concerns over stormwater runoff became increasingly more prevalent, productive solutions are ever more necessary.

That is where bioretention comes into play. A bioretention area can serve as a safe, useful solution to stormwater treatment.

Bioretention is a process that removes contaminants from storm runoff and improves the overall water quality so that it can be put to good use.

There are various means of accomplishing this (a basin or swale just to name two), but almost all of them require special landscaping features, and bioretention soil plays an integral part.

Today we will look at the ends and outs of bioretention management practices.

Bioretention Basin

The bioretention basin is what many people think of when stormwater treatment comes to mind. It’s actually a landscaping feature. A depression that collects storm runoff into a designated area where it is subsequently filtered through the area until it is purified.

The water then slowly collects towards nearby native areas where it can be used to practical effect.

These features are often used in residential areas, and can even look decorative. For example, a bioretention designed parking lot island might be a stormwater basin—where water is collected, utilized, and then subsequently siphoned by a nearby storm drain.

Though these systems sound very simple, they are actually quite nuanced and consist of multiple parts.

Bioretention basins may include a grass buffer strip. The purpose of this feature is to slow the water down, and also to collect surface contaminants so that they aren’t absorbed into the soil.

Additional vegetation may also be present to further serve this purpose.

Then there is also typically a ponding area where the water collects, then several layers of solution for nutrient and contamination absorption.  

Mulch, special soils, and sand beds all filter and percolate storm water to rid it of harmful substances and excessive nutrients while an underdrain system removes the water once it has been treated so that it can be usefully applied to nearby native areas.

You might also hear this system referred to as a rain garden. Essentially it’s like a nature’s water filter. It brings in contaminants and excessive moisture, and can in turn them into something beautiful.

Though this option is generally used for large to medium size parcels of land, the range of application is actually quite large. With tweaks to the design it can be optimized for climates both warm and cold.

Bioretention basins can even be used in high contamination areas like gas stations with the right equipment. However, in these sites elaborate filters may be needed for quality control.

Bioretention Swale (Bioswale)

Similar to the basin, we have the bioretention swale. Or, as it is also known, the bioswale. The bioswale is often seen in urban or suburban settings, and can be a simple, low cost solution to storm runoff mitigation.

This water harvesting system features landscaped depressions that disrupt the flow of water at the bottom of a descending side slope.

They offer lots of real estate for attractive greenscape, but do take up a considerable amount of space making them difficult to use in cooperation with larger sidewalk areas.

In instances of heavy rain, they are invaluable assets. They are also generally safe in the event of accidental pedestrian foot traffic, and additional prevention strategies are also possible to make sure this risk is minimized.

To the layperson the difference between this system and the basin is actually quite minimal. The most substantial distinguishing feature pertains to the quantity of water that either is able to accommodate.

Bioswales are usually made for larger amounts of water, which is why you might see them being applied near a highway or city street where proper water collection is of extreme importance.

The importance of bioswales in urban communities is currently experiencing an increase in awareness. As a result, there are many initiatives across the country to improve their presence in communities that could use them. For more information on this trend visit NACTO.

Bioretention Soil

Last, there is bioretention soil (also called bioretention media). This material isn’t quite as obvious as a big swale or basin, but that is only because it works behind the scenes.
In any serious bioretention project, bioretention soil will be at the heart of the operation.

The name of bioretention soil does well to describe its function. Essentially, it is just soil made with the right draining and purification properties.

The right soil will ensure that a basin or swale is able to drain properly and work to its intended effect. Done wrong and the water will pool uselessly at the surface.

Though simple relative to impressive landscaping feats illustrated above, proper bioretention media is actually harder to find than one might assume. While experts are all in agreement as to what it should do, not everyone is adequately equipped to come up with a mix that performs the intended function.

Ideally, bioretention soil will both drain well, and facilitate vegetation and even tree growth.

This means finding the right mix of draining properties, such as sand, while still creating a nutritionally viable blend.

Right now, conventional wisdom indicates that a proper mix should include 5% clay make up, and 12% fines.

However, in application, different mixes with a higher level of fine presence are also finding success. In other words? Science has yet to find the perfect combination.

Get In Touch With Us

When planning a bioretention strategy it helps to have the right people in your corner. As illustrated above, the right soil remedy can be the difference between success and failure. Finding the right product is integral to success.

Contact us today for a free quote so that you can get your project up and running the right way.