Complete Soil Test Critical to Balance Soils
by Dennis Klockenga, ProfitProAG Consultant
ProfitProAG receives many soil tests, and most are incomplete. For a thorough
soil analysis, a full and complete soil test is needed. To compare, one doesn’t go to a doctor for a physical and only get their blood pressure checked, so why only test for a few nutrients?
So what does a complete soil test entail? The normal analysis includes N, P, K, OM and pH. In addition, Ca, Mg, S, Na, base saturation, CEC and micronutrients needs to be analyzed. Most people understand why N, P, K, pH and OM are important, but why are all of these additional components important? The Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) indicates the number of cations and positively charged elements that the soil can hold. The CEC is based on the amount of clay and organic matter in the soil; the higher the soil’s clay content and organic matter, the higher the CEC. Both clay and organic matter have strong negative charges and since opposite charges attract, the anions or negative charges will attract the positive charges or cations. This reserve of cations can be absorbed by the plant. So if the CEC is known, it specifies how many cations the soil can hold.
Sand, for instance, has a lower holding capacity because it has larger particles than clay or silt. In contrast, if basketballs represented sand, and golf balls represented clay, it is readily apparent there would be more golf balls in a basket than basketballs due to the size difference. The CEC is very important in determining soil type.
Base saturation is the amount of base cations that are held onto the soil particle. The cations Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, and Na+ are calculated and recorded in a percentage. The higher the charge such as Mg and Ca, the more affinity they have to attach to the soil particle. In general, to have a somewhat balanced soil, it is desirable to see the Ca at 70 – 75 percent, Mg at 15 – 20 percent, K at around
5 percent and Na < 1 percent. If a soil has high Mg at 25 percent or higher, the soil is sticky, can compact easily and typically has a lot of clay. Calcium and magnesium are like sand and clay. Calcium is a larger particle then magnesium. Calcium allows more pore space for water movement and oxygen exchange between the particles, unlike magnesium, which is a small particle and doesn’t allow pore space. The key is a balance of Ca and Mg to provide enough pore space for water and air movement for the soil and the plant.
Another element drastically neglected in agriculture is sulfur. A corn plant requires 0.3 to 0.5 lbs of S per bushel of corn produced. For 200 bu/A corn, that equates to 60 to 100 lbs of S/A. To determine the amount of S per acre, take the soil test level which is expressed in ppm and multiply it by two to convert it to pounds per acre. That number is then subtracted from the 60 to 100 lbs/A, which gives the amount required to supply maximize yield. Fields all over the Midwest are showing sulfur deficiency in corn, which may be misdiagnosed as nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen deficiency and sulfur deficiency symptoms are very similar in corn. Both show a yellowing of the leaves, but the yellowing of the leaves is only on the top leaves with sulfur, whereas nitrogen deficiency is only on the bottom leaves. Nitrogen can move throughout the plant while sulfur cannot; consequently sulfur deficiency will show on the top part of the plant. Additionally, sulfur can help move magnesium and sodium down into the lower soil profile, which allows calcium to increase and create a soil that has more pore space for water and air movement. There are three ways to apply sulfur in a dry form: ammonium sulfate, elemental sulfur and gypsum. In a liquid form, there are two ways: ammonium thiosulfate and potassium thiosulfate. Another important part of sulfur is that it is required by the soil biology to be healthy. Sulfur is required for both immunity and cell structure and when the level is deficient, the soil biology will not be able to function at the level for maximum yields.
Although needed in small amounts, micronutrients are critical for plant growth and development as well as the plant’s immune system. Without them, plants are unable to achieve maximum yield and quality. While N, P and K may be the engine that drives the plant, they won’t go far without the key to start that engine and micronutrients function as that key. They also play a critical role in enzyme functions throughout the plant and the soil. Thousands of enzymes wouldn’t be possible without micronutrients to stimulate them. For instance, molybdenum is critical in forming nitrogenase enzymes, which is needed for nitrogen fixation. Without “moly,” nitrogen wouldn’t convert into a plant-available form.
ProfitProAG can tailor individual plans for farm operations to help balance soils. Without balance, issues like insects and diseases or environmental stresses such as too much water or not enough, may arise. A well balanced, fertile soil will consistently outperform an out of balanced one. It starts with a complete soil test as well as the right person to interpret it and provide guidance.
A novel microbial technology, Manure Master PlusTM is a safe, non-evasive biological process designed to protect barn structures, pit side walls and concrete slatted floors from the corrosive effects of hydrogen sulfide generation that occurs in contained manure storage facilities. Corrosive hydrogen sulfide generation is due to the anaerobic conditions that exist within manure containment systems that result from a biological process termed the anaerobic sulfate pathway.
During manure storage, the sulfate-reducing bacteria, common in anaerobic environments, aid in the break down and degradation of organic manure compounds. These anaerobic fermentation bacteria convert energy from large organic molecules to smaller compounds such as organic acids and alcohols that are further oxidized by acetogens, methanogens and the competing sulfate-reducing bacteria. These anaerobic processes are responsible for the black color from metal sulfides as a result of the action of sulfate-reducing bacteria that also produce toxic hydrogen sulfide—a waste product of the sulfate-reducing bacteria.
The rotten egg odor in the barn confirms the presence of the sulfate-reducing bacteria and the toxic, corrosive hydrogen sulfide in the environment. The sulfate-reducing bacteria are responsible for the sulfurous odors and the resulting hydrogen sulfide that can cause considerable corrosion to slatted floors and building materials.
Hydrogen sulfide is also extremely toxic to livestock. In the past few months, numerous incidences have been reported of cattle succumbing to hydrogen sulfide. These losses can be financially devastating. When a person or animal smells hydrogen sulfide, it’s almost too late, therefore, prevention is the key. Manure Master Plus helps block the formation of hydrogen sulfide and consequently avert livestock death from this gas.
Problems Caused by Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria
The production of hydrogen sulfide by sulfate-reducing bacteria can result in significant problems in containment facilities when building materials, including concrete floors, are exposed to sulfate-containing water. The interaction of water and metal creates a layer of molecular hydrogen on the surface. The sulfate-reducing bacteria then oxidize the hydrogen that creates hydrogen sulfide reactions with moisture—a contribution to corrosion. These hydrogen sulfide, sulfate-reducing bacteria play a role in the biogenic sulfide corrosion of metal and concrete as well as contribute in the anaerobic oxidation of methane in pit and in manure deposits (build-up). Manure Master Plus’ microbial consortium technology mitigates these reactions.
Manure Master Plus helps:
• Stop Pit and Barn Corrosive Processes
• Reduce Pit-related Hydrogen Sulfide Generation and Odor
• Reduce Building and Slat Corrosion due to H2S
• Reduce Pit Surface and Bottom Solids
• Improve Pit Manure Consistency
• Reduce Ammonia
• Retain Nutrient Values During Storage
• Reduce Pump-out Time
• Achieve Consistent Manure and Manure Values
Manure Master Plus is effective in controlling hydrogen sulfide.
Hydrogen sulfide, the chemical compound H2S is a colorless gas with the characteristic of foul, rotten eggs. Heavier than air, it is very poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive. Hydrogen sulfide in manure pits is the result of bacteria breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. When this toxic gas comes in contact with water, the chemical reactions of hydrogen sulfide and water convert to acid, which is corrosive to surfaces.
As hydrogen sulfide gas is released from manure containment, it comes in contact with condensation, i.e., the moisture that forms on surfaces above the pit, slatted floors and barn surfaces due to the temperature variations from pit to air. The hydrogen sulfide then reacts with water (H2O) and is converted to corrosive sulfuric acid, H2S + H2O = H2SO4. This chemical reaction results in acidic corrosion to all surfaces and materials above the pit and within the barn.
The novel culture consortium of Manure Master Plus contains a series of select microorganisms that include purple sulfur, which has the capability to biologically reduce the production of H2S in pits and to control hydrogen sulfide’s corrosive microbial processes. These cultures reduce H2S production and control the corrosive effects of the resulting H2S.
Manure Master Plus contains purple and green sulfur bacteria as well as other sulfur oxidizing bacteria that utilize H2S produced by sulfate reducing bacteria as electron donors. These H2S consuming bacteria lower H2S concentration and prevent corrosion to surfaces. The novel cultures decrease H2S concentration in the pit and barn environment, which results in a reduction in upper pit and facility corrosion due to the bacteria’s ability to decrease sulfide concentration in animal containment facilities equipped with under building manure storage pits.
Manure Master Plus’ manure enhancement technology improves manure management in numerous ways:
• reductions in surface and bottom solids
• odor abatement with land-applied manure
• retained nutrients/enhanced soil and crop
The reduced cost of manure management, in combination with reduced hydrogen sulfide generation and corrosion reduction and control, adds significant value to the augmentation of contained manure.
Manure Master Plus protects your investment through modern microbiology.