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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.

Conclusion

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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