Do your forages need more calcium?

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Humans and animals need calcium to build strong bones. Plants also require plenty of calcium to develop strong cell walls and membranes. Insufficient calcium in plants leads to a breakdown of cell walls and membranes, and to a variety of disease and post-harvest problems. In addition, calcium plays a role in maintaining soil physical properties and alleviating subsoil acidity.

Calcium is required by plants in relatively large amounts. Many forage crops, such as alfalfa, remove over 100 pounds of calcium per acre per year in harvested hay. When plant deficiencies occur, it is necessary to examine the cause of the problem in order to know the best response. There are many excellent sources of calcium available, but their appropriate use depends on your individual situation.

Calcium applications can be helpful when certain soil conditions exist. Sandy soils and crops irrigated with low calcium water may be particularly vulnerable to low calcium availability. Soils with low pH generally have low calcium availability. Unusually high exchangeable magnesium may pose a problem for calcium uptake by plant roots.

When low calcium is causing plant problems, start by getting the soil tested. Make sure there is adequate calcium present and low pH is not a problem. Large amendments with calcium inputs such as lime or gypsum may be recommended to address these conditions.

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Source: International Plant Health Institute

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