[nafex] Soil pH

Naomi Counides naomi at oznayim.us
Fri Dec 21 12:19:26 EST 2012


I have a very alkaline well in Idaho and we use it for irrigation.  This is
not a formal ph reading on the soil but there is a rosette shaped weed with
purple flowers that is a pretty good indicator of alkaline soil.  I used to
have it all over.  I have goats.  I have been dumping fresh manure 6 inches
thick any place I can for 15 winters.  That weed is gone.
Naomi

-----Original Message-----
From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Jay Cutts
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:38 PM
To: Michael Dossett; nafex mailing list at ibiblio
Subject: [nafex] Soil pH

We have the added problem here in New Mexico that our irrigation water is
alkaline and very high in calcium. It's hard to remediate the soil when the
near-daily watering (and, yes, without watering at least every few days,
everything would die) is alkaline. In addition, a huge amount of calcium
builds up in the soil, which seems to stunt most plants.

Any ideas, especially in a long-term, organic kind of way?

Regards,

Jay

Jay Cutts
Director, Cutts Graduate Reviews
Lead Author, Barron's MCAT Prep Book
Lead Author, Barron's LSAT Prep Book (2013)
(505) 281-0684
10 am to 10 pm Mountain Time, 7 days

On 12/20/2012 12:19 PM, Michael Dossett wrote:
> Lee is right, Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is a neutral salt and in most
circumstances has no effect on soil pH.  There have been some reports of it
raising pH in soils that are high in aluminum, but this is attributed to
increasing the solubility of aluminum in these soils. Gypsum can be
beneficial or detrimental depending on your soil, but it is often most
useful for breaking up heavy clay soils and displacing sodium (by replacing
it with calcium) in soils with excess sodium. Depending on the composition
of your soil, it may in fact lower pH very slightly but this is also
specific to certain soils and generally it must be applied at high rates to
have this effect.
>   
> Blueberries need acid soils (pH 4.5-5.5) for two reasons.  One is because
they have poor nitrate reductase activity.  As soil pH is reduced, nitrogen
is more commonly found as ammonium, which blueberries are able to take up
and utilize.  At higher pH, soil nitrogen is oxidized into nitrates, which
blueberries are very inefficient at utilizing for growth.  If using
conventional fertilizers for blueberries (i.e. if NOT using soybean meal as
suggested earlier) then one should use either ammonium or urea, depending on
your objectives. The other reason why blueberries need low soil pH is also
because they often have problems with iron deficiency in higher pH soils.
As soil pH rises, iron becomes less bioavailable (as do zinc and manganese,
although these are less problematic in blueberry).  Blueberries grown in
soil that is too high in pH usually develop iron deficiency before they
experience nitrogen deficiency.  Iron deficiency in blueberries
>   manifests itself as a yellowing of the leaves with some green retained
at the midvein and in some of the other leaf veins, leading to what many
people refer to as a "Christmas tree" pattern.  Google "Blueberry iron
deficiency" and you will see many good pictures.  Many people see this
yellowing and assume it is nitrogen deficiency so they never really fix the
problem, or worse, they burn the plants by giving them too much or the wrong
kind of nitrogen, as blueberries are very sensitive to high EC.
>   
> Adding elemental sulfur about 6-12 months before planting is the best way
to lower soil pH (the rate is dependent on the amount of lowering needed and
your soil type).  This is because soil microbes break down the sulfur over
time and it gets converted into sulfuric acid.  The effect is temporary, so
you should monitor soil pH every year or so to make sure it stays in the
proper range.  Fertilizing blueberries with Ammonium Sulfate provides the
correct form of nitrogen and has the effect of lowering pH slightly at the
same time (although to a lesser extent than adding elemental sulfur).  This
is the recommended nitrogen source for established blueberry plantings where
the pH has started to creep upward.  Urea has less effect on soil pH and is
the preferred nitrogen source for blueberries where the soil pH is already
in the correct range.  There is some evidence that high organic matter and
mycorrhizae may help to mitigate nitrogen issues when soil
>   pH is higher than optimal, so that blueberries can get sufficient
nitrogen.  Unfortunately, this doesn't fix the iron deficiency that occurs
in many soils when pH is too high, so it can't be counted on as a way to
grow blueberries in higher than optimal soil pH at every site.
>   
> Of course everything I just said mostly applies to growing blueberries in
the ground.  If you grow in pots or bales of peat, there may be other issues
with the soil chemistry which affect how well blueberries perform.
>   
> Michael
>
> Michael Dossett
> Mission, British Columbia
> www.Mdossettphoto.com
> phainopepla at yahoo.com
>
> From: Lee Reich <leeareich at gmail.com>
> To: nafex mailing list at ibiblio <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2012 7:20 AM
> Subject: Re: [nafex] Was:Pine needle mulch, now: Blueberries in high 
> pH
>
> Gypsum does not raise pH.
> I wouldn't worry about the microorganisms.
>
> Lee Reich, PhD
> Come visit my farmden at http://leereich.blogspot.com/ 
> http://leereich.com/
>
> Books by Lee Reich:
> A Northeast Gardener's Year
> The Pruning Book
> Weedless Gardening
> Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden
> Landscaping with Fruit
> Grow Fruit Naturally
>
> On Dec 20, 2012, at 9:47 AM, Andrew Hahn wrote:
>
>> Thanks for the amendment suggestions, I hadn't though of soybean meal 
>> as being particularly good for acid loving plants and avoided Gypsum 
>> so as not to rais the pH. Probably time to test the soil again to see
what it needs.
>>
>> I had wondered why naturally occurring fungi would not be picked up 
>> and couldn't find much about how common thy were. It is pretty likely 
>> my soil has at least some, while I don't know of any ericaceous 
>> plants here in the plains, 20 miles away the mountains have serval
species.
>>
>> Very helpful, thank you.
>>
>> Andy
>>
>> On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 10:01 AM, <nafex-request at lists.ibiblio.org>
wrote:
>>
>>> An excellent, inexpensive, and organic (especially if non-GMO) 
>>> source of N for blueberries and other acid-loving plants is soybean 
>>> meal. Good for any plant, in fact.
>>>
>>> I did graduate research involving ericoid mycorrhiza and found no 
>>> effect from inoculations. In fact it was hard to keep control plants 
>>> from picking up inoculum as a general contaminant. The only 
>>> exception would be places where blueberries or ericaceous plants are 
>>> naturally absent and plants are raised without any source of
contamination -- in Australia, for instance.
>>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> "The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time." - 
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